10 years later: Teen's hit & run death remains unsolved

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - By Al Showers – bio | email

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Ten years after a hit and run left a teenager dead on Lakeshore Road in Hancock County, investigators say it's unlikely anyone will ever be arrested in the case. But that answer is unacceptable to the parents of Mitch Mitchell.

The 18-year-old from Pearl River, Louisiana was riding his bike along Lakeshore Road when he was hit and killed on the night of January 23, 2000. Mitchell's death was ruled an accident, but his parents believe their son was murdered.

For ten years now, Mamie Mitchell has visited her son's grave, remembering the good times.

"He was just such a good child. It should not have happened," Mamie said.

Her husband, Mark, just can't bring himself to go there.

"Try burying one of yours, then you'll know," Mark said. "That's the only way you can know."

There's so much the Mitchells wish they knew about how and why their son died, but they're certain someone knows.

"I felt like if the people involved had anything in them that made them human, they would come forward. They would say what they did. What went on that night."

Mitch Mitchell was riding his bike home from his aunt's house in Lakeshore at night when he was struck and killed by a driver who didn't stop.  Investigators even found a car hidden in the woods the next day with tire marks on the side consistent with a bike tire.  They questioned the owner of the car, but there wasn't enough evidence to make an arrest.

"We have, as far as I'm concerned, the suspect," Chief Investigator Kenney Hurt said. "We know who done it.  I just can't get the evidence to prove it. I don't have enough evidence to go to court. This was an accident it was raining very, very hard."

Investigator Hurt took over the Mitchell case five years after it happened.

"I went back, I went through every report, every photo, every picture that I could find, and there was no stone un-turned on this case. It's a very thick file. It has to go into a box."

Hurt said investigators have interviewed more than 50 people, had evidence tested at the Louisiana State Crime Lab, and even had the Cold Case Unit of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation look at the case.  In fact, the state Cold Case Unit had the files when Hurricane Katrina hit and destroyed so many other case records and evidence in Hancock County. And while the Cold Case Unit recommended doing more tests on the tire rubber, local investigators said that's impossible.

"As you know, after the hurricane everything was gone. The vehicle had been returned back to the owner. Not having the bike, it wouldn't have done any good to go find the car.

Mitchell's parents believe the investigation has come up short. His mother said deputies discounted evidence that bullies picked on her son because of his piercings and the way he dressed.

"He called them freak haters," Mamie said. "They didn't like the way he dyed his hair. He had it green at one point, red at one point, black at one point."

"I want the investigation investigated," Mark said. "If I had a lawyer and had $20,000, I could hire a private investigator and a lawyer. This thing would have been solved over and over again. It would be done with."

Kenny Hurt said he understands the frustration, but sees little hope of getting the Mitchells the closure they want.

"I think if the guy had gotten a guilty conscious, he'd done come forward by now and admitted it. But I'm not looking for nobody for murder. I'm looking for somebody who had an accident that left the scene," Hurt said.

"There's no closure, there's not going to be any closure," Mark said. "Even if they do prosecute, the boy, he's still going to be gone. It's still going to hurt. It's going to hurt. That's not going to change."

The suspect in the case had just joined the military. Sheriff's officials said military investigators also looked at the case and reached the same conclusion: There was not enough evidence against the young soldier to prosecute him.

Anyone who knows anything about this case is asked to contact the Hancock County Sheriff's Department at (228) 466-6900.

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