Penny Coppedge cried as she explained how she held her dying son's hand on New Year's Eve, "I said, 'Marcus, mama, loves you. She's not going to leave you.' And that's when he looked at me from the corner of his eye and took that one last breath," Coppedge told Eyewitness News reporter Shae Crisson.
Coppedge and her sister, Roxanne, witnessed Penny's 23-year-old son, Marcus Coppedge, get hit by a Franklin County Sheriff's deputy. She says they were pumping gas on one side of Highway 39 when Marcus Coppedge crossed the highway to say speak to friends on the other side.
The deputy told the sheriff she was coming down Highway 39 when she got distracted by some men in a parking lot, looked away from the road for a second and when she looked back Marcus Coppedge was in the street.
She tried to stop but it was too late. Skid marks where the deputy tried to stop. "Out of nowhere a car just flashed, came by and it was running more than 45, the speed limit and it hit him," Marcus's aunt, Roxanne Coppedge said.
Penny Coppedge adds, "I got out of the car and ran over to where he was at. He went up in the air, about as high as this ceiling, his body flipped three times and he landed flat on his back."
The impact of his body smashed the bumper, dented the hood and shattered the windshield of the patrol car. Deputy Crystal Mitchell was heading to a non-emergency call so she wasn't running her lights or siren. She told the sheriff she wasn't speeding.
Franklin County Sheriff Pat Green tells Eyewitness News he feels responsible. "I'm responsible for what they do good or bad and when you accidentally take someone's life it's not an easy thing to swallow. I know the Coppedge family, they're good people but they're hurt. They want answers," Green said. Answers that will come from the state Highway Patrol's investigation.
In the meantime Deputy Mitchell is on paid leave. "The officer didn't mean for this to happen. She's a good officer, has been a good officer. She's having some emotional problems. We'll try to get her some help," Sheriff Green said. Sheriff Green is also offering help to the Coppedge family as well. Help Penny Coppedge can't cope with right now at this time. "The only thing I can say, you killed my baby."