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February 09, 2017

Mother of young Philly hit-and-run victim hopes to launch notification system

Tragedies Hit And Run
Jayanna Powell Brian Hickey/PhillyVoice

Ayeshia Poole, whose 8-year-old daughter Jayanna was killed in a November hit-and-run in West Philadelphia, answers questions outside the Criminal Justice Center after a hearing earlier this year.

She doesn’t want anyone to know the pain and uncertainty that she and her family suffered for 12 long November days.

So, on Tuesday, Ayeshia Poole will formally launch an effort to bring about an “Amber Alert” notification system that would share details of hit-and-run vehicles with the general public, and with auto-body shops in particular.

On November 18, Poole’s 8-year-old daughter Jayanna was fatally struck by a vehicle at 63rd Street and Lansdowne Avenue as she walked home from school with three siblings.

The driver fled the scene. Nearly two weeks later, a tip led investigators to a body shop in Frazer, Chester County, where the vehicle had been taken for repairs.

While the subsequent arrest and apparent confession of 24-year-old Paul Woodlyn brought some measure of peace to Ayeshia and her family, the uncertainty beforehand lingers as a painful memory.

Her sister has since spoken with a representative from state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams' office. Those conversations will lead to a press conference next Tuesday to announce the start of an effort to launch a “Jay Alert” system.

“I’m doing this so the next mother or father of a hit-and-run victim will never have to go through this pain ever again.” – Ayeshia Poole

“I’m doing this so the next mother or father (of a hit-and-run victim) will never have to go through this pain ever again,” Ayeshia told PhillyVoice on Thursday. “We have an ‘Amber Alert’ whenever a child is taken. Anytime a child is struck by a vehicle, that description would go out across TV, cell phones, radio and to auto body shops so they’d know to call authorities if they see a vehicle matching that description.”

While it would be new to Pennsylvania, there is precedent for a “Jay Alert” notification system. In 2014, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill into law that established a “Medina Alert” that performs a similar function.

That notification system – which came after a 21-year-old valet driver named Jose Medina was fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver in Denver, Colo. – has resulted in several arrests.

The Medina Alert creator, Larry Stevenson, aimed to take the mission nationwide. Its spirit has gained traction in Los Angeles and New York City and Stevenson launched a “Medina Alert” mobile-phone app which sends push alerts to users.

Poole hopes to tap into that energy to get something similar passed in Pennsylvania and beyond.

“We came up with this idea in remembrance of Jay Jay,” Ayeshia said, “but making sure another parent doesn’t have to go through this pain of not knowing what car did it, who did it, that’s what I’m fighting for.”

Ayeshia, who initially wanted to announce the effort at the intersection where her daughter was struck, said a news conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday outside Ren’s Auto Repair and Collision, 4542 Baltimore Ave, West Philadelphia.

Sabrina Hall, the community outreach specialist at Williams' office to whom Jayanna's aunt brought the idea, said the senator will speak at Tuesday's event.