TAYLORSVILLE — As they search for peace following the death of their son in a hit-and-run accident this week, a Taylorsville couple is sharing a message that they hope will reach the woman accused in the crash.
They forgive her.
Robert Harsh, 19, was killed Wednesday when a southbound Cadillac Escalade hit him in a crosswalk at Redwood Road and 4200 South, just around the corner from his home. When his parents learned of his death the next day, Lemuel and Gina Harsh say they both thought immediately of the woman who police say was behind the wheel.
"We know that our son is in a good place right now and that he will be all right because of our faith. We certainly want to extend to this lady that we have no bad feelings so that, whatever she has to overcome, she won't have to carry that. There's no need for that," Lemuel Harsh said.
Gina Harsh said it's what her son would want them to do.
"Because of the way Robert's disposition is, we know he feels the same way," she said.
Robert Harsh had finished work Wednesday evening, went home and then decided to walk to McDonald's for a snack, as he sometimes did, his father said.
The couple assumed their son had slipped back in after they went to bed, and when he wasn't in his room the next morning, they thought he may have gone to a Thanksgiving activity with friends from church.
The family began trying to reach Harsh, searched the neighborhood for him, and after four unsuccessful hours looking, they contacted police to report him missing.
At 1 p.m., officers came to the family's home to tell them the 19-year-old had been killed. Because he had only been carrying a debit card at the time of the accident, Lemuel Harsh said, police had been working to identify him when the family had called.
Lemuel Harsh said he knew right away the crash police were referring to. He had seen news stories about it that morning while watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, all the while thinking his son was still asleep in bed.
He also knew a woman had been arrested in connection with the accident.
"Our very first thought was, we don't want this woman to believe we have any bad feelings," he said.
According to a jail report, the suspected driver, Roxanna Molina, 27, was spotted running from her SUV to another vehicle after the crash in an attempt to flee the scene. She was arrested before she could leave the scene.
Molina told police she had been drinking and was driving to a party when the crash happened, according to the report. Investigators believe she was speeding.
"Roxanna stated she knew she hit someone but kept going," the report says.
Molina was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of automobile homicide, fleeing the scene of an accident and driving under the influence. She has since posted bail and been released, according to booking records.
No charges had been filed in the case as of Friday.
The couple, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, credits faith for the peace and forgiveness they have felt since learning about their son's death.
"Our faith, of course, extends to the fact that we believe in a family after this life, and that there will be the same times over there that there are here, if we measure up to what our faith requires of us," Lemuel Harsh explained. "We know that in order for us to be forgiven, we have to forgive."
The parents describe Robert Harsh, the seventh of their eight children, as loving, kind and friendly to all. His mother recalled how much he enjoyed competing in ballroom dance and the way his younger brother had looked up to his popularity in school.
"He was known for his kindness," Gina Harsh said. "He would hug me, not just when he came home, but when I came into a room he would get up and hug me. And he's that way with his friends, very kind and loving."
Robert Harsh had graduated high school in May and was deciding between going to college and serving a mission for the LDS Church.21 comments on this story
Now, Lemuel Harsh said he believe his son has found the purpose he had been searching for in life.
"I realize now that this was meant to be, and that he would be able to fulfill what he needed to do," he said. "We just know that he is in a good place and is able to serve and do. That is important to us."
Sharing her gratitude for the many people offering condolences to her family, Gina Harsh added that those looking to support them "can have kind and forgiving feelings toward this lady. That's how they can help us."