Crime & Public Safety

Two years after Hilton Head hit-and-run driver killed her daughter, a mother remains without answers

Video: Diana Mercer on living with uncertainty about the death of her daughter

Hilton Head Islander Diana Mercer is the mother of Jenny Mercer, who was killed in a hit-and-run incident in November 2013. Nearly two years later, there are still no answers as to who killed her daughter.
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Hilton Head Islander Diana Mercer is the mother of Jenny Mercer, who was killed in a hit-and-run incident in November 2013. Nearly two years later, there are still no answers as to who killed her daughter.

In a small Hilton Head Island home filled with images of a woman with a bright smile, Diana Mercer Imler held a picture of daughter Jenny to her chest.

"She was a free spirit," Imler said Friday. "She loved nature, and that is what (lead) her to leave to go to the beach" on the day two years ago when she died.

Mercer, 34, was killed Nov. 3, 2013, by a hit-and-run driver as she walked along South Forest Beach Drive. She was struck near Bayberry Lane on her way to watch a total solar eclipse.

Two years later, Imler still has no answers as to who took her daughter's life.

"No one has come forward and said they saw anything," Imler said. "The only thing we can do is live the rest of our lives trying to honor Jenny and make her proud of us."

A LIFE LOST

Mercer left home around 7:45 p.m. Nov. 2.

She last communicated with her mother via text message around 1:15 a.m.

A driver in the area where she was hit found Mercer's body around 2:45 a.m. and called for help.

Some two hours later, Imler said she answered a pounding knock at her door. A Beaufort County Sheriff's deputy and the coroner told her daughter was dead.

"We've all heard it said before, but this is every parent's worst nightmare," Imler said. "My life has changed forever. It will never be the same without my precious daughter."

Imler described Jenny as the sort of caring kid who would bring home a stray dog.

"When she was 10-years-old, she volunteered her help at the Humane Association here on Hilton Head," Imler said. "(She) was the youngest volunteer they had at that time."

Mercer's passion for helping others did not end when her childhood did.

Imler said she volunteered at a homeless shelter in California and carried blankets in her car to give to those living on the streets.

"She gave them food, and most importantly, she gave them words of encouragement, letting each and every one know he or she was one of God's children," Imler said. "Her caring and loving heart was as big as the moon was that fateful night."

A STALLED INVESTIGATION

According to Sgt. Bob Beres of the S.C. Highway Patrol, there are no new developments in Mercer's case.

Beres said it is common for fatal hit-and-run cases to go unsolved. As in any criminal investigation, evidence is key to finding answers.

With no known witnesses or recordings of the incident, the investigation came to a standstill.

Beres said the case remains an active one. Anyone with information related to Mercer's death can call the Highway Patrol at 843-953-6010, Beres said.

That is little comfort to Ilmer. She knows that the person who killed her daughter is out there somewhere.

"As I was told by the Highway Patrol, 'We can't make a person tell the truth,'" Imler said.

MOVING ON

Pictures of Mercer cover nearly every surface of Imler's home.

They depict an active young woman with a warm smile surrounded by friends and family.

"As a mother, I do not find the words 'closure' and 'healing' applicable to my heart-breaking situation," Imler said. "Perhaps 'coping or 'learning to cope' are more appropriate."

To honor her daughter, Imler said she is working with Family Promise of Beaufort County, a not-for-profit organization that provides temporary and permanent housing opportunities for homeless families with children.

It is Imler's goal to raise money to create a new play and reading room for the children the organization helps.

Despite that good intention, the question of who did this to her daughter is always there.

"I know this was not done deliberately," Imler said.

"We use the word justice so often, but I have no justice. All I really want to know is how did this happen?"

Follow Caitlin Turner on Twitter at twitter.com/Cait_E_Turner.

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