Sunday, February 25, 2018
Public safety

Family hopes vigil will bring new information in hit-and-run death

PLANT CITY — Every afternoon, Marvin Daniels expects to see his son coming up the driveway after school.

The thought brings a smile to his face.

Then reality hits — again.

His son, Chris Daniels, is dead.

"It's like a punch in the gut when you realize he's gone," Marvin Daniels said. "And it doesn't end. Ever."

The victim of a hit-and-run in January, Chris Daniels died of his injuries nine days later. A passer-by found him, hours after the accident, laying in a ditch near Antioch Park, about a mile from his Thonotosassa home. His car, unharmed, sat in the parking lot.

With no arrest in the case, the mystery of who is responsible adds to the family's pain.

"The person who did that is still in our community," said Chris Daniels' stepmother, Amy Daniels. "Another person could fall to the same fate if we don't figure this out."

On Saturday, the family will hold a rally to raise awareness of their son's death with the hope it may prompt someone to speak out.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is investigating. Detectives have not yet determined the exact circumstances of Chris Daniels' death but know that he was either hit by or thrown from a vehicle.

"We have interviewed some individuals, but we still need anyone who may have information to come forward," said sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon.

Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Chris Daniels' family is selling T-shirts to generate additional reward money.

"There is nothing else we can do for him except find out who did this," Amy Daniels said.

The family's lawyer thinks an arrest may be close.

"I don't think law enforcement have a question of who is responsible," attorney Frank Miranda said.

Chris Daniels was an 18-year-old senior at Strawberry Crest High School. He lived at his mother's house but could often be found fiddling with his dirt bikes a few minutes away at his dad's.

During summers, he worked at his dad's storage manufacturing company. He planned to join the business officially after graduation.

"We were really looking forward to him and his brother taking over the company," Marvin Daniels said. "Now that he's gone, we don't even care to do it anymore."

For Marvin Daniels, it's hard to believe a death could take place in the small community where he spent his life — and that somebody could get away with it.

"They have to have a conscience," he said. "How could you leave somebody to die in a ditch?"

Times staff writer Danny Valentine and researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2442.

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