Family responds to suspect’s forgiveness plea in hit & run bond hearing

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SPARTANBURG Co., SC (WSPA) – A Spartanburg County judge denied bond Wednesday for the suspect in the hit-and-run crash that claimed the life of a beloved school crossing guard. 

Kenneth Gregory Sullivan, 27, of Spartanburg, was arrested Tuesday and charged with felony leaving the scene with death, driving under suspension and operating an uninsured vehicle-second offense.

The hit-and-run happened outside Jesse Boyd Elementary School on Fernwood-Glendale Road.

Emma Taylor was hit while helping several children on Oct 30. The 73-year-old crossing guard died more than a week after the hit-and-run in the hospital.

In court Wednesday, 7th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Barry Barnette called the suspect a “flight risk” and a “danger to the community” as he cited Sullivan’s past offenses, focusing on his lengthy driving record.

Soon after Sullivan was led before the judge, Barnette read a letter Sullivan wrote to Taylor’s family.

“It said ‘Dear Family of Emma Taylor, I’m deeply sorry to my soul that my actions led to her not being with you,” read Barnette.

Those actions, according to investigators, happened six weeks ago when Taylor was hit while helping children cross the road outside Jesse Boyd Elementary School in Spartanburg.

Sullivan did not directly speak to Taylor’s family in court, however, Robin Robinson, the daughter of Taylor, stood and spoke to the suspect.

“I just want to say Mr. Sullivan my family forgives you for what you have done but you should not have been driving on that day. The person you hit was the glue to our family. We miss our mom. You took everything,” Robinson said as she broke down in tears.

After the hearing, Robinson told reporters why her family forgives the suspect.

“We forgive him because we are a family of forgivers. Our mother taught us that a long time ago. But, in his statement he said he was distracted. You were distracted going 60 to 70 miles per hour,” explained Robinson. 

Robinson said she and her family had been grieving with little answers for the last six weeks and continue to grieve their mother’s death.

Investigators with the S.C. Highway Patrol told 7News Wednesday that hit and run cases are the toughest cases to solve and said tips from the public helped lead to Tuesday’s arrest of Sullivan.

“It was paramount information that we sued and fortunately we were able to make an arrest in this case,” said Lance Corporal Joe Hovis with the Highway Patrol.

Hovis said he could not elaborate on the specific type of tip that came in that helped lead to an arrest saying it could jeopardize the prosecution’s case against Sullivan.

Robinson did say that the news of Sullivan’s arrest came as a surprise and relief to the family.

“We’re still hurt, but it’s a relief. [Tuesday] brought closure knowing they captured this person so now we can put a name and a face with who hurt my mother,” said Robinson outside the courtroom.

The judge denied Sullivan’s bond specifically on the hit and run with death charge. It’s a charge that, if convicted, carries up to a 25 year prison sentence and up to a $25,000 fine.

Sullivan’s next court date in general sessions court is set for February 28, 2019.  

Taylor leaves behind a daughter, son, granddaughter, and four great-grandchildren.

She also leaves behind the children she helped cross the road safely at Jesse Boyd Elementary School.

“She loved those kids,” Robinson said. “She’d talk about those kids, and that was just her world.”

Robinson said Taylor would have retired as a crossing guard this month. After the hit-and-run that claimed her life, the community showed an outpouring of support for Taylor’s family.

On Tuesday, Spartanburg Police Chief Alonzo Thompson posted a video to social media, urging the driver who hit Taylor to turn themselves in.

“Because I can assure you, whoever you may be… We will find you, and we will bring you to justice,” Chief Thompson said. 

Just hours later, Kenneth Gregory Sullivan was booked into the Spartanburg County jail. A spokesperson for the Spartanburg Police Department could not confirm if the video led to Sullivan’s arrest. 

Following the crash, troopers said there were few details about the vehicle that hit Taylor, which was  described as a dark-colored car.

South Carolina court records show Sullivan was found guilty of multiple offenses in Spartanburg County including:

  • Third-degree assault and battery in 2011
  • Unlawful carrying of a weapon in 2016

Sullivan’s other charges include several traffic violations.

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