Families of hit-and-run victims share grief, seek help

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SALT LAKE CITY -- When Barton heard about the missionaries killed in Texas, he immediately thought of his niece, Brynn.

Tuesday, the day the young men died, was also Brynn's 25th birthday, reminding the family of the pain the death of a young person brings.

"She had a lot going for her, just a lot of life to live," Barton said. "These types of tragedies with young people, it just makes it extra hard."

Brynn Barton was riding her bike on 700 East and 800 South last summer when she was hit and killed by a car that left and didn't report the crash or the girl's death.

Her family says that with time, the number of tips coming in has dwindled and the person who hit her hasn't been caught.

"It's been about five months since Brynn was killed and so the hurt hasn't gone away," Dave Barton, Brynn's uncle said.

When something like this happens, there needs to be some kind of accountability and they'd like to see someone come forward.

–- Dave Barton, uncle

But as Barton's family copes with her death, they struggle for answers too.

"When something like this happens, there needs to be some kind of accountability and they'd like to see someone come forward," Barton said.

Other families, who know the same kind of grief, feel the same way. Salt Lake City Police have yet to find the driver of the car who hit and killed Elvia Lopez, a single mother of two, in June. Lopez was taken off life support a week after the crash.

In September, Demi Hooper of West Valley was hit and killed by a car, as he celebrated his 22nd birthday in Wendover. His family is desperate for answers.

"I've lost my world, my baby, my life," Shasta Hooper, Demi's mother said.

Police say, without witnesses or good evidence, hit-and- run cases can be difficult to solve. Unified Police has yet to find the person who hit and killed a University of Utah researcher in December of 2005. It's their only unsolved fatal hit-and-run.

Robert Elbel,80-years-old at the time, was on his way home from work when he was hit by a car that didn't stop. Unified Police still have a detective assigned to the case and following up on leads.

"Somebody out there knows what happened. Somebody was driving the car that struck Mr. Elbel," Lt. Justin Hoyal said.

Brynn's family, too, realizes that somebody knows who hit her and they know that the arrest for her death may never happen. What comforts them, though, is the life she lived.

"She's in a good place and she's been a good example to so many people throughout her life," Barton said. "Yeah, we'll miss her, but they truly feel that they'll see her again."

Salt Lake City Police has an accident investigation squad, specifically trained to handle hit-and-runs. They encourage anyone with information to come forward. Those with information can remain anonymous.


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Sandra Yi


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