Mom Speaks Out: Driver Walks Free Leaving 14-Year Old to Die
Both Stephanie Gnolfo and her daughter Emma Mae from Point Pleasant are stunned after the female driver who hit 14-year old bike rider Emma, drove with her on the windshield, flung her from the car and kept going leaving her to die on the road, gets no jail time.
Late last week in an Ocean County courtroom, Stephanie and her daughter Emma, who had waited so long for justice to be served, watched 27-year old Brittany Keifer (also of Point Pleasant) get sentenced to 3 years probation, 50 hours of community service, loss of her license for one year, and a $2500 fine.
Not one parent would want to relive what happened the night of Aug. 9, 2018, in Point Pleasant, when a carefree, usually very safe, family beach town where kids often ride their bikes everywhere, changed the lives of Emma, who was a 14-year old cheerleader getting ready to start high school, and her single mom Stephanie forever. It was the beginning of a nightmare that continues for them both.
Brittany was driving the car that hit Emma. And when Emma landed on Brittany's windshield, Brittany kept going, then slammed on her brakes, flinging Emma onto the street. Brittany then kept going, leaving Emma for dead on the road. Brittany then called 29-year old Kyle Ramos to pick her up a few blocks away and help her hide her car.
And now you can also read, in vivid detail, the haunting letters that both Emma and her mom wrote to the judge before sentencing that describe what happened in such detail that you won't want your little kids to read it. Here are the letters that somehow, despite how difficult it was, Stephanie and Emma Mae were able to read in court to the judge:
First, mom Stephanie Gnolfo's letter to the judge:
"I want to start by saying that this accident has changed Emma's life forever. Emma was an amazing athlete, who was at cheer practice just hours before the accident. She spent at the very least 5 days a week in the cheer gym. She was a scholar always on the honor roll. A fun-loving, silly teenager that loved to make others laugh. August 9, 2018 changed all of that. For the first time in eight years, she didn't get to run out on the mat with her cheer team at their first competition. Not only did she not get to start her very first day of high school as a freshman on time with her friends, she struggled with being able to concentrate and remembering what she learned (once she was able to go back to school) making it impossible to keep her grades up enough for honor roll.
And that fun-loving teenager that was always smiling, well she was barely able to smile herself, so making others smile and happy was just something she was no longer capable of doing. This accident has changed her life forever. We do not know what long-lasting effects this might have caused, but I pray that the worst is over and that when she's older, this brain trauma doesn't lead to something so much worse.
The words from that awful phone call will always be stored in my memory, "Emma was hit by a car." My first thought was "Oh my God, it's got to be bad, is she alive?" No parent should ever have to get that call. The vision of pulling up to the scene of that accident and seeing your child laying on the side of the road in a pool of her own blood is an image I will never be able to get out of my head. The drive in the ambulance to the hospital was the longest ride of my life. She woke up for about thirty seconds to say, "Is my mom here? Tell her I love her and I'm sorry."
That was the last time I heard her talk to me for about a week. Not knowing if those words would have ever been her last words to me made me sick to my stomach. Finally we get to the hospital and she was rushed to trauma. I was told to wait in the tiny waiting room. I was alone and couldn't get a hold of anyone in my family. I stood there not knowing if my daughter was even alive.
The words of the trauma doctor saying that the odds are not looking good and to prepare ourselves because she has a very serious brain injury. Going in and seeing her laying on a metal table in the trauma room with an overlarge and deep cut going across her shoulder and looking at her laying there unconscious and praying for her to just open her eyes and tell me she's okay. She was covered from head to toe with road rash and cuts and bruises. Her hair was covered in blood and full of glass from the impact of the windshield. Her skull was shattered in three different places. Her shoulder required many stitches inside and out.
Emma still requires surgery on her shoulder. Hoping to get that done soon. Unfortunately, all funds through MY car insurance have been exhausted, so having to go through our health insurance and deductibles is a bit expensive. By the grace of God and some miracle, Emma ended up surviving. The hospital stay in the ICU was rough. She suffered from so much and it was painful to me to see her go through so much agony and pain, CAT scan after CAT scan, needles and IVs and wound care changes, she was in so much pain. Pain that I do not wish on anyone. She would cry and ask me why did this happen to her? I knew then that even though eventually she would be okay physically and her wounds would heal, that it was going to be a long road to recovery for her and myself emotionally and mentally. And let me just tell you, it very much has been.
The emotional roller coaster has been never-ending. Both Emma and I have been in counseling weekly due to this accident. I have held the anger at the two responsible who are freely walking the streets, who, I believe, had no conscience for almost taking my daughter's life. Brittany chose to run from the police, hide the car under a tarp and then called around to get the car fixed all with Kyle's help. She showed no remorse with comments such as, 'Well, she shouldn't be out after curfew.'
I have watched Emma struggle with physical and emotional pain every day since the day Brittany hit her with her car and left her in the middle of the road. I watch her every day deal with PTSD and anxiety from the accident that she never had before. Brittany knew she hit somebody that night and she did not stop! She drove 20 feet with my daughter's body on the hood of her car and her head in her windshield.
She slammed on her brakes to get Emma off of her car and I cannot express enough how lucky we are that Emma rolled to the side and not the front of the car, because if she had rolled to the front, Brittany would have run over Emma's body. She left MY child unconscious in the middle of the road, waiting to be hit again. She made so many choices that night.
She chose to listen to her boyfriend Kyle when he told her not to go back. She chose to listen to Kyle when he said take my car and I will take yours. She chose to drive home and hide the car under a tarp -- with my daughter's hair, blood and skin stuck to it.
Emma had her two 14-year old friends with her who, thank GOD, had the wherewithal to pull her out of the road and away from traffic. They are the ones - 14 year old girls - who got her help!
A grown adult that hits another human being and drives away, leaving them to die, cannot be characterized as an accident It can only be characterized as willful and wanton - despicable and disgusting. Brittany and Kyle's actions that night are nothing short of despicable and disgusting.
As we waited for this legal process to unfold, I took more time off of work to attend, losing PTO time and money from work. Preparing for this to just begin, the roller coaster of emotions continued. Being told time and time again that it needed to be rescheduled. It took a toll on us both. Now, over a year and a half later, here we are. I stand here today so very grateful that she is still here with me. But a crime was still committed. I ask this court to consider the magnitude and impact of this crime has had on Emma’s life, my life, her family's and her friends who had to witness this horrific incident.
Brittany and Kyle have to get the maximum penalty. They have to receive jail time and not just probation. Otherwise, this court is essentially saying to the community that it's okay to hit a child (or anyone for that matter) with a deadly weapon, a car, and leave them to die. My daughter and my family need to get justice and that can only come if Brittany is sentenced to jail for her callous disregard for my daughter's life, for changing her normal, for taking her innocence, for taking away the joyful fun-loving person she was.
My daughter is the victim. Not Brittany, despite the role she has played. She is not sorry. Instead of accepting responsibility, she has been on social media blaming my child for her despicable, depraved behavior. She blames Emma and I for hitting Emma, leaving her to die and trying to cover it up. That is not the narrative of a person who is sorry or accepts responsibility. I would ask Your Honor to consider sentencing Brittany to the maximum sentence under the law, as any time spent incarcerated is nothing compared to what Emma, myself and my family will experience for a lifetime.
Your Honor, the world is watching. This horrible accident made national news. Moreover, the entire Township of Point Pleasant had set aside a day to honor Emma and our family. We beg of you to see the severity of this incident and give the defendants the maximum sentence set forth in their plea agreements or, if applicable, the plea bargain to be overturned and maximum punishment given.
We ask that with your sentence you send a message to everyone...OUR PEOPLE ARE VALUED, OUR CHILDREN ARE PROTECTED. You cannot come to this community and do this. You cannot hurt someone and leave the scene, you cannot flee from the police, you cannot hide or tamper with evidence. NOT IN THIS TOWN. IT IS NOT OKAY TO HIT A CHILD AND LEAVE THEM TO DIE OR TO TRY TO COVER UP YOUR CRIME."
Emma Mae, now 16, wrote this letter to the judge:
"On August 9th around 10:30 at night, I was riding my bike with two of my friends heading to their house. The back of my bike was struck by a car. The driver drove the car about 15 to 20 feet with me on the hood of the car until I fell off. She ended up taking off and left me there on the side of the road. Leaving me with a fractured skull in three places, a concussion, blood on the brain, street burns all over my body, and a deep cut throughout my shoulder that was 11 inches long and down to the bone. This was the scariest moment of my life, at that moment all I could think of is that I didn’t know if I was ever going to see my mom and family ever again. Luckily when she slammed on her brakes to get me off of her car, I rolled to the side instead of the front of the car. If I didn’t roll off to the side, she would have run me over and I wouldn’t be here today reading this letter. What I can remember is flying up on her car and the pain I felt when my head went into her windshield. I remember seeing all the blood. I remember my friends tie the shirt around my arm to try and stop the bleeding. The ambulance driver said that if my friend Gianna didn’t do that, that I could have bled out. So I am lucky to have had Gianna and Maddie there to help save my life. I do not remember anything after that besides looking up when my mom came to the accident and seeing her be held back by the police officers so she couldn’t get to me. When I got in the ambulance I remember falling asleep and then waking up to ask if my mom was there and to tell her that I am sorry and that I love her. After that, I do not remember anything else. My family was told by the doctors that they should be planning a funeral because of the damage of having so much blood on the brain and it was a miracle that I was still alive. It hurt so much. I slept for five days. When I woke up, I couldn’t keep my eyes open because of the pain. I remember crying in the hospital bed asking my mom why this had to happen to me, what I did so wrong that I had to be the one who was going through this. All I did was cry in pain every day. When I left the hospital, I then had to go to a rehab. Luckily by a miracle, I was still able to walk and talk. I was told that if I landed even an inch closer on the metal part of the windshield of the car that the metal part would of went through my body and I would have died. Today I am known as the girl who got hit by a car. I couldn’t start freshmen year on time, I couldn’t do the sports I wanted to, I still have to go to therapy every two weeks, and I suffer with anxiety and PTSD. In the summer when I have a tank top on in public I feel everyone staring at my right shoulder. On my right shoulder is this huge scar I’m going to have to live with for the rest of my life because of this accident. This accident really changed my life especially because of going through something so traumatic at only fourteen. If it weren’t for the all of the support of my family and friends I wouldn’t have been standing here today. In ten months I get my license. I know better to stop and help and not leave. If I were Brittany I would’ve done the right thing and pulled over to the side and helped out. I wouldn’t even leave an animal to die on the side of the road, never mind a human being. But that wasn’t the case. I was raised to do better than what she did. I don’t know how she was able to put her head on a pillow that night knowing that she left a young girl on the side of the road to die. She has been living her life since the accident. She never had her license taken away, she is still driving around the town, the same town that I live in too, I don’t know if I will be crossing the street and she will just be careless again and next time I could die. That’s all I think about now. That we live in the same town and she could be out there carelessly and it could be me again or any one for that matter. She hasn’t had to pay a dime for my medical bills, my mom lost thousands of dollars. My mom is a single mom and has been paying more money in her car insurance because of this accident, lost her time off and money from work for my doctor’s appointments and court dates that were always rescheduled. What have Brittany and Kyle lost this entire time? As for Kyle, him helping her cover up this accident and trying to get away with it is just as bad as her being in the driver’s seat and actually hitting me. What kind of person helps someone who just ran over a teenage girl and left her to die? Brittany and Kyle both have not shown any kind of remorse or taken any responsibility for what they did. She was able to go to concerts during the summer and hang out with friends and live her best life while I suffer from this accident mentally, emotionally and physically. Your Honor, she deserves to go to jail for what she did to me. They both deserve jail time. My life will never be the same. Every day is a battle for me to live a normal life and I didn’t do anything to deserve this. I was just a normal 14 year old kid riding my bike in a Jersey Shore town over the summer with my friends and now I will suffer for the rest of my life because of this."
Despite the strength Stephanie and Emma had to muster in order to read these letters out loud to the judge in the courtroom before sentencing, Stephanie says it seemed to mean nothing. The ultimate outcome was no jail time, leaving Stephanie and Emma in shock. How do you tell your daughter, who has been through hell and back, that the driver who hit her and left her to die doesn't have to serve any time in jail? Stephanie worries that Emma may never again feel safe, and neither of them feel like justice was served. This mom and her daughter are distraught.
Stephanie, as a single mom who had to use her own insurance to cover all of the medical expenses for her daughter, still has a long journey ahead to pay off the bills and continue to get Emma the services and additional surgeries she will need. CLICK HERE if you would like to donate.
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