Mashayla Harper, 24, was eight months pregnant and enjoying the anticipation of motherhood at her baby shower on January 4, when minutes after leaving the event, her life was forever changed.
Harper, an expectant fourth-grade teacher, was discovered by a hunter who found her lying on the side of the road in the Soso community located in Mississippi, according to the Sun Herald. Local authorities told PEOPLE Magazine that the accident occurred just before 6 p.m. when a 2005 Nissan Titan hit Harper’s car.
Hunter was expecting a girl who she reportedly planned to name Londyn Alise Jones, family members say.
Authorities later discovered the car belonged to James Gilbert, 33, who incredulously fled the scene on foot. Gilbert told police he ran out of fear because he had previously been drinking and only turned himself in to authorities after the local sheriff contacted his wife who persuaded him to do so.
Gilbert is currently being held on $100,000 bond, pending the release of test results which could increase the bail amount if investigators discover that his blood alcohol level was over the legal limit. Gilbert has three other DUI offences on his driving record.
Gilbert apologized to Harper and her family for the indefinite emotional damage he caused. “I was scared,” he told The Laurel-Leader Call. “I’m very sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Harper’s father Maurice Pruitt recounted the difficult memory of being told the heartbreaking information. “The doctor came in and explained Mashayla had severe trauma to her and the baby didn’t make it through the accident,” he said in an interview with WDAM.
Harper’s life initially hung in the balance but after a successful surgery, she is awake and stabilized, according to family members. She suffered extensive injures including a broken leg and damage to her abdomen, in addition to the head trauma, the Sun Herald reports.
“She was just pointing at her stomach and she kept pointing at her stomach,” Pruitt continued. “She couldn’t talk because she had tubes in her. She was aware, but when she woke up she wanted to know where her baby was.”
A funeral service was held on Wednesday for Harper’s child, but she was unable to attend because she still remains in the hospital.
“To see our baby go from this being the happiest day if her life to I.C.U. in a matter of minutes was a complete tragedy,” Pruitt wrote in an emotional Facebook post. “That idiot hit her head on and left her out there on that road to die. We are grateful for the individual that happened to be in the area hunting to come to her aid, otherwise we may not be sitting in I.C.U. praying as she fight for her life.”
If you want to help, a GoFundMe page was started to assist with Harper’s medical bills.