The driver apparently didn’t even realize she had hit a toddler in the street as she drove through a neighborhood in Deerfield Beach.
As she approached a stop sign, a group of people let her know in a vicious way. They dragged her from her car and pummeled her, leaving her with a broken nose and eye socket.
The child, Neallie Junior Saxon III, 22 months, died Sunday after being flown to a hospital, the Broward Sheriff’s Office said. The driver has not been charged, and police are still looking for her attackers.
Witnesses told detectives Neallie was playing with a group of children outside. When a ball rolled into the street, the playmates chased it, detectives believe.
A 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe hit the child about 4:45 p.m. in the 300 block of Northwest Fourth Place, just east of Interstate 95. He was shorter than the bumper, and the driver — possibly distracted by the other children — probably couldn’t see him, Broward Sheriff’s spokeswoman Gina Carter said.
The driver was not speeding and did not stop after hitting the child, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Bystanders may have thought she was fleeing.
“She would have left. She had no intentions of stopping,” Neallie’s grandmother, Caroline Chery, told WPLG-Ch. 10.
Authorities would not release the driver’s name, saying they were trying to protect her with her attackers at large. She could not be reached for comment.
The Sheriff’s Office also provided no details about her attackers, including how many confronted her.
“They beat her unmercifully,” witness Anthony Clay told WPLG.
Neighbor Jannette Martin said she saw the aftermath of the beating. When police arrived, the driver, bleeding from a deep gash near her eye, told them, “It’s me, it’s me” who was to blame, Martin said. People were hysterical, the child’s aunt passed out in the street, she said.
“Can you imagine how you would feel knowing you killed somebody’s child and then to get beat up after that?” Martin said. “But you can understand the fact that the mother is hurting. … As far as the beating and everything, I think people were reacting and wanted to grab anyone they could. It was an emotional thing. It was very painful.”
Neallie died at Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale. After an autopsy Monday, the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office found that his death was accidental, from multiple blunt force injuries.
A few blocks north of Hillsboro Boulevard, off Northwest Third Avenue, a line of sand covered a blood stain Monday morning. It stretched a few feet away from the family’s home across the street, to where a brown teddy bear and toy tractor-trailer marked the spot where Neallie was hit.
The kids often played outside without adult supervision, as they were Sunday, witnesses told investigators.
Chery, the toddler’s grandmother, declined to talk with reporters outside her home Monday and asked for privacy.