Crime & Public Safety

Tragedy doubled: Mother of Jasper County homicide victim badly injured, loses own mother in hit-and-run crash days before son's funeral

Cynthia Howard, left, embraces Patricia Jenkins on Oct. 16, 2015. Howard and her mother, Jannie Lee Robert, not pictured, were in an Oct. 23 car crash in which her mother was killed. Howard also is the mother of Bruce Specks, whose body was found in a burned car with his girlfriend Shantay Jenkins on Purrysburg Road in Hardeeville on Oct. 3. Patricia Jenkins is Shantay Jenkins' mother.
Cynthia Howard, left, embraces Patricia Jenkins on Oct. 16, 2015. Howard and her mother, Jannie Lee Robert, not pictured, were in an Oct. 23 car crash in which her mother was killed. Howard also is the mother of Bruce Specks, whose body was found in a burned car with his girlfriend Shantay Jenkins on Purrysburg Road in Hardeeville on Oct. 3. Patricia Jenkins is Shantay Jenkins' mother. Staff photo

Days before she planned to lay her son to rest, the mother of a Jasper County homicide victim lost her mother and was herself critically injured in a hit-and-run crash.

Cynthia Howard, 56, suffered broken legs in the Jasper County car accident on Friday. She remains hospitalized in Savannah and will be unable to attend the funeral that will lay her relatives to rest.

"When it rains, it pours," Howard's friend Robin Vonhofen said Tuesday.

Howard has undergone two surgeries to repair her legs and will face months of rehabilitation, Vonhofen said.

Howard lost her son, Bruce Specks, 33, Oct. 3 when a burned car was found on Purrysburg Road in Hardeeville with two bodies inside.

Jasper County Sheriff's Office investigators deemed that incident a homicide, and the bodies were turned over to the S.C. Law Enforcement Division for DNA testing to identify them.

Before the identities were released, Howard told The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette she knew one of the bodies was her son.

On Oct. 21, when she got the call came that confirmed her suspicions, Vonhofen said Howard wept.

"She was upset," Vonhofen said. "She said, 'Even though I knew already, I cried because that was my last child who was alive.'"

The second body was identified as Specks' 27-year-old girlfriend, Shantay Jenkins.

No arrests have been made in the case, according to Chief Deputy Roy Hughes of the Sheriff's Office.

That tragedy was soon followed by another.

Two days later, on Oct. 23, Howard was riding with her mother, Jannie Lee Robert, 76, on Old House Road in Ridgeland when another driver began swerving as he approached.

He forced Robert off the road. Her vehicle hit a tree, according to a report by Savannah television station WTOC.

Robert died instantly.

The driver of the other car, Tommy Brown, 53, of Ridgeland, sped from the scene but was stopped and arrested by the Ridgeland Police Department following a chase that hit speeds of up to 90 miles per hour.

Brown was taken to the Jasper County Detention Center and charged with leaving the scene of a collision resulting in death and leaving the scene of a collision resulting in great bodily injury, according to the Ridgeland department.

He was released Sunday after posting bail, according to the detention center. Officials at the detention center were unable to say Tuesday how much that bond was.

Specks' funeral was originally planned for Oct. 25, but the crash forced his family to reschedule it.

The family now plans to combine Specks' funeral with his grandmother's at the end of the week, Vonhofen said.

Vonhofen said she plans to visit Howard today. She said she will offer to record the service.

"When I saw her the day before the accident she was in good spirits," Vonhofen said. "She just wanted to lay her son to rest."

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

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