Lakeland teen left with broken leg, wrist in hit-and-run crash; deputies search for driver

A Polk County teen walking to a bus stop was hit by a car, thrown into a ditch and left for dead. Deputies say the driver never even stopped.

The crash happened Tuesday morning around 6:30 a.m. on Swindell Road in the Kathleen area of Lakeland. The mother of 17-year-old Elani Miller is pleading for the driver to turn themselves in.

"You left my child there, my baby there, and you didn't even have the common courtesy to call 911," said Suzette Miller. "How can you live with yourself? How are you going to sleep at night?"

Elani Miller, a senior at New Beginnings High School, was headed to a city bus stop Tuesday morning. As she walked east on Swindell Road near Pineville Lane, Polk County deputies say an SUV hit her.

"I heard screeching, yelling, weird noises," said Jenise Robles, who called 911. "I did see the lady, the young lady laying in the ditch. She seemed to be very hurt. She was screaming and crying. She was saying, 'help me'." 

Sheriff Grady Judd said it frustrates him to think about this crime. "Someone hit her and left her for dead," Judd said. "That's right, they knocked her into a ditch with about 18 inches of water."

The force of the impact broke both of Elani's legs and her left hand. She's already had one surgery with several more ahead.

"She's like, mommy, I've got pain and I'm like, I know baby," Suzette Miller recalled.

What adds to the pain for Elani's family is knowing that the driver who hit her never bothered to stop.

"For her to be in this hospital is not fair," Miller said. "She's only 17." 

"Just that fact that somebody hit her and left her for dead is ridiculous," Robles said. "It's sickening. She's a child." 

Sheriff Judd says it's not a question of if they'll find this driver but, rather, when.

"We have evidence," Judd said, "and, we're going to find out who did this. It's just how many sleepless nights do they want before we knock on their door and arrest them?"

As Suzette Miller waits by her daughter's hospital bed, she's praying for answers. "If anyone knows anything, we ask that you come forward, you let it be known," Miller said. "Justice needs to be served for my baby."

The suspected hit and run driver was last seen driving east towards Galloway Road. Deputies say the vehicle is possibly a dark-colored GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Suburban or Tahoe between the years 1999-2006.

Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at (863) 298-6200. Anonymous tips can be sent to Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-8477 or online at