TAMPA — Carnegia Holmes left her Tampa home on April 2, 1998, and never returned.
That foggy morning, the 27-year-old mother of four took her fiance to work in Plant City. She was supposed to head back home to get her kids ready for school.
The next day, a passing truck driver discovered a mangled gray Oldsmobile in the woods off Interstate 75 near Fowler Avenue.
It was Holmes' car. Her body was inside. She had died in the crash, apparently the victim of a hit and run.
Her death is among thousands of hit and runs that have been investigated by the Florida Highway Patrol.
Noting a recent uptick in hit and runs, the FHP announced a statewide campaign Monday in hopes of decreasing those numbers.
In 2012, nearly 70,000 hit-and-run crashes were reported in the state, about a 7 percent increase over the previous year, said FHP spokesman Sgt. Steve Gaskins. Of that number, more than 12,500 resulted in injuries and 160 in fatalities.
Hillsborough ranked fifth among Florida counties with the largest numbers of reported hit and runs — 3,730 — in 2012. Pinellas County logged 3,175, Pasco had 1,199 and Hernando had 361, the FHP said.
"We're trying to get those numbers to drop," Gaskins said.
During the campaign, which runs through Friday, the FHP will hold news conferences to inform the public about the need to stop after a crash. The agency also will feature unsolved hit-and-run cases on its website and use social media to spread the word.
"The whole concept of this process is to make sure people understand there are consequences to their actions," Gaskins said. "Hit-and-run crashes are completely preventable."
Leaving the scene of a crash involving death or injury is a first-degree felony, punishable by a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Many victims and their families never find closure. Holmes' case remains unsolved.
Tire marks left on her car came from a semitrailer or a large dump truck, an investigation report shows. Troopers believe the truck slammed into the Oldsmobile as the driver switched lanes. But with no witnesses or any other evidence, the hit-and-run driver was never arrested.
Holmes' son, Anton Green Jr., remembers the morning his mother didn't come home.
Following her death, Green and his three brothers and sisters were forced to separate.
"We kind of went from home to home growing up without a mother," he said. "It was terrible. I hated it."
Green, now 23, was just a boy at the time of the crash.
His mother missed his biggest milestones. His high school graduation. His first girlfriend. The day Green purchased his own car.
"Every moment of my life," Green said, "she's not around to see what I've accomplished."
Laura C. Morel can be reached at [email protected] or (813)226-3386.