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Only killed a homeless person? Readers fired up over comments on hit-run case

Jordan_valdez The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office filed an adult criminal charge Wednesday against Jordan Valdez, 17, (left inset) accused of fleeing a fatal crash earlier this year. Valdez, of Davis Islands, faces one count of leaving the scene of an accident with death, a first-degree felony that carries a maximum punishment of 30 years in prison.

A homeless woman, Melissa Sjostrom, 33, (right inset) died in the Hyde Park accident.

The Tampa Police Department closed the hit-and-run investigation in April without making an arrest, but reactivated it a month later after the St. Petersburg Times raised questions about the case.

The story is the most commented this morning on, with more than 145 comments posted since last night. Valdez has her defenders who stress her youth, but others are calling for stiff punishment.

Many are debating the first comment that appeared with the story, from Rob of Tampa: "That's a shame; let that young girl go. She only killed a homeless person. It's not like she killed a animal. She has her whole life ahead of her. She was a minor when this happened; she should do no time."

We don't know if Rob was being sarcastic, as one reader suggested, or just callous. Whatever his intention, he certainly sparked an outpouring of response. Here's a look at what people are saying:

"Being homeless doesn't diminish the fact she is still a human being," wrote Rich. "The young lady is 17, not a child. She should have stopped, period."

"'She only killed a homeless person.' Are you crazy? What is wrong with you!" wrote Traci from Tampa. "If 16-year-olds can get a license then they need to abide by the laws set forth. It is not the accident that killed it is the fact she left the person in the road!"

"Part of me really feels bad for this girl, she made a dumb kid mistake by panicking, but then got some REAL bad advice from her family. Sad for all involved," wrote Edward from Tampa.

"Its about time," said Mike from Pinellas Park. "I am so tired of people being run down and the drivers just leave its sickening."

Markus from Munich, Germany, had questions about Valdez' possible sentence: "Why do they want  this kid going to jail for 20 years? In Germany people under the age of 21 are going to the juvenile court. And you know works! You have to work with these kids."

Read the story, share your reaction.

[Last modified: Monday, May 24, 2010 3:54pm]


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