STEUBEN COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) — Sunday will be the first Christmas that Ron and Chantel Bennett will spend without one of their five children.

Wayden Bennett, their 13-year-old son, died in early October after someone in a Jeep Liberty hit him and his friend along a stretch of 275 N near Lake James in Angola. The driver left the scene and the boys behind – Wayden died days later at a local hospital.

Wayden Bennett, 13, died days after he was struck in a hit-and-run crash on 275 N in Angola near Lake James in October 2022.

Wayden was walking with his friend Ryly Cummings, 12, who was also injured in the crash.

Days later, police arrested and charged Hope Richmond, 45, near Fremont.

Hope Richmond, 45, of Montpelier, Ohio.

Court records revealed that Richmond tried to clean up blood and knock out dents left on her Jeep Liberty in order to conceal her involvement.

She’s accused of initially lying to police about the damage to the car, according to Steuben Superior Court documents. She eventually changed her tone and told investigators in court documents:

“It was dark, and I did not see them.”

Richmond faces three felony charges.

One is a Level 4 felony count of leaving the scene of an accident causing death, the other two are Level 6 felonies – one count of leaving the scene of an accident causing serious bodily injury and one count of obstruction of justice.

She could face anywhere between 2 to 17 years in prison.

Ron and Chantel Bennett told WANE 15 that they wouldn’t take their eyes off of Richmond in her initial court appearance to see if she’d look at them.

The Bennetts said she never did. Richmond bonded out and won’t return to court until her trial in August of 2023, according to the Bennetts. That’s 10 months from when Richmond was arrested and charged.

The idea of Richmond being out of jail until the trial is something that doesn’t sit well with the Bennetts.

“We’re sitting here trying to pick up the pieces to our family. We’re going through a Christmas without our son. I don’t think that it’s fair,” Chantel said. “Every time we go out, I have literally seen people that look similar to her, and he’s [Ron] had to hold me back because I have almost gone straight up to this person thinking that it was her. It wasn’t her, but I feel like I’m constantly looking and watching for her.”

A petition with more than 9,000 signatures at the time of this post calls into question Richmond’s $16,000 bond that’s allowed her to walk free until her trial.

Ron said they tried to ask the judge to revoke Richmond’s bond, but they were told it couldn’t happen.

“Sometimes in the justice system and in society here in Indiana, it feels like if you don’t have money you’re treated differently,” Ron said. “Since we are a family that isn’t well known, we don’t have a high name, we’re not a public figure, we’re not a representative for the state of Indiana, so it’s just we’re just ‘Joe Schmo’ that they don’t know and it doesn’t matter.”

It’s hard for them to comprehend why someone who admitted to police that they hit their son, which resulted in his untimely death, is allowed to walk rather than waiting in a jail cell until trial.

“If it was just an accident, we would still be devastated, but she left our son on the side of the road like roadkill. She then tried to hide it,” Chantel said while fighting back tears.

WANE 15 talked to former Marion County Deputy Prosecutor and the former Chief Deputy Prosecutor of Allen County Mike Loomis on Thursday.

Loomis provided what a court looks at when it comes to bail.

“There’s a right to bail, but it’s not an absolute right. The right evolves from the Eighth Amendment, which says that excessive bail shall not be required,” Loomis explained. “The court typically considers two things in setting bail. One, whether the amount is reasonably required to assure the defendant’s appearance in court, and two, can they assure the physical safety of any person or the community at large.”

Loomis added that the court usually takes a person’s prior, or lack thereof, criminal history when setting bail.

“So, what it comes down to is that bail is merely a device to insure that the defendant will appear in court in all procedures, and I think all of us can be sensitive to a situation like this one where the family is grieving the loss of a family member, but the point is that bail is not a sentencing feature,” he said.

The Bennetts are experiencing how the system works, and they don’t see it as just.

“Something has got to change, and obviously it’s not just for Wayden. Obviously, the whole system is messed up,” Chantel said.

Chantel recently wrote a lengthy post on her personal Facebook page, which includes the tough-to-read, graphic details about what happened to her son, and photos of her family grieving, which they also shared with WANE 15.

In the post, she tagged accounts for the mayor of Angola and all of the major politicians in the state of Indiana starting with Governor Eric Holcomb.

They simply want to find anyone who will back them in their fight.

An image Chantel and Ron Bennett gave WANE 15 permission to use that shows their family grieving as they said goodbye to Wayden Bennett.

“I feel like if they had to see those pictures, if they have to see what we had to see, then maybe it will tug at their hearts,” Chantel said of the photos she called “heartbreaking.”

She’s also working on written letters that will be accompanied by the pictures of Wayden to send to lawmakers.

“We don’t want to see somebody go through the same thing we’re going through,” Ron said.

The couple’s goal is to make sure other families don’t experience the pain and grief they’re feeling. They know what it’s like to lose a child, a pain they never thought they’d have to deal with.

“It’s unfathomable,” Ron stated. “I can’t even tell you, describe it in words that you would be able to understand.”

They also hope that one day there may be something called ‘Wayden’s Law’ that brings about harsher punishment for hit-and-runs.

“I feel like it’s the reason that I’m breathing right now because with all of this stuff going on, it’s very hard to find a reason to live. I know I have four other kids, and they should be a reason to live, but the pain — it gets unbearable sometimes, and I’ve gotten very, very low and dark” Chantel said. “I don’t know there was just a fire in my belly that I needed to get up out of bed and I needed to fight.”

“We just hope that at the end of this we end up seeing justice for Wayden. That’s our end goal,” Ron added.