View from the median of a heavily-used pedestrian cut at the scene of a hit-and-run that killed a 7-year-old girl Sept, 4, 2022 on Tara Blvd. in Jonesboro.

Clayton County Police say they are desperate for the public’s help in tracking down a hit-and-run driver who killed a 7-year-old girl early Sunday morning in Jonesboro.

Sometime between 2:15 a.m. and 2:30 a.m., police say, the child was hit on Tara Boulevard near Southside Industrial. Police found the girl dead on the northbound side by The Shops on Tara. The area is near some extended-stay motels, a McDonalds, and a Shell gas station.

According to WSB, “Investigators said officers showed up at the Magnolia Bay Hotel and Suites, which is near the scene. Channel 2′s Bryan Mims said the mom and child were staying at the hotel but the mother declined to speak with anyone.”

“At this time, we have no leads in reference to this accident,” CCPD Public Information Officer Sgt. Julia Isaac said in a press release. “We are desperately asking for the public’s assistance. If you were traveling on Tara Boulevard around that time, you may not have realized you hit someone. We are urging you to give us a call if you remember any details while you were traveling in that area.”

The Clayton Crescent retraced the line-of-sight path of the spot where the girl was hit from across Tara Boulevard. It appeared to lead directly to a cut through bushes and trees, next to the MARTA bus stop on the northbound side. That path leads to the Motel 6 parking lot and behind The Shops on Tara.

However, police have not said whether they know which direction the girl was traveling in when she was hit, or whether they know if she had tried to cross the road at all. On Sunday, CCPD sent this e-mail reply to our request for more details: “Due to the sensitive nature of this incident we are limited on the information released.”

View of hit-and-run scene from the median of Tara Boulevard. A 7-year-old girl was struck and killed in the right-hand northbound lane as she apparently tried to cross towards this path, which leads to the Motel 6 parking lot and behind The Shops at Tara. The incident happened between 2:15 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, September 4. Clayton County Police are urging the public to call them at (770) 473-3983 or Crime Stoppers at (404) 577-TIPS. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

Tara Boulevard has no continuous sidewalk and, in some places, no sidewalk at all, on either side of this busy U.S. highway. Marked crosswalks are limited and most pedestrians simply cross at the middle of the block and cut across the grassy median, often in the path of speeding vehicles. It’s difficult for an adult, much less a child, to time the crossing correctly.

Site where a 7-year-old girl was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Tara Boulevard northbound, sometime between 2:15 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, September 4, 2022. Anyone with information about this incident is urged to call Clayton County Police at (770) 473-3983 or Crime Stoppers at (404) 577-TIPS. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

Our office is a few blocks away from this location and The Clayton Crescent regularly sees people crossing in the middle of the block to and from a local Citgo convenience store on the southbound side near the Arrowhead on the Flint subdivision. The store’s owner said he closes at midnight.

This Citgo gas station sees heavy pedestrian traffic to and from the Motel 6 and other places where people live across Tara Boulevard. The closest marked crosswalk is another block north at Tara and Mt. Zion/Parkwood Way. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

On the northbound side, a McDonalds with a 24-hour drive-thru and a Shell station convenience store are open late at Tara Boulevard and Mt Zion. Those businesses are on the same side of Tara Boulevard where the girl was hit.

This Motel 6 is next to the site where a 7-year-old girl was killed by a hit-and-run driver in the right-hand northbound lane of Tara Boulevard. A cut and a MARTA stop are just to the right of this view. Pedestrians regularly cross in the middle of the six-lane highway at this location to get to a convenience store across Tara Boulevard. The closest marked crossing is a block north where Mt. Zion crosses Tara Boulevard to become Parkwood Way. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

These convenience stores and fast-food restaurants serve local residents of the Motel 6, the Magnolia Bay Hotel and Suites, and other motels along Tara Boulevard. Also nearby are the Georgetown Commons townhomes, Arrowhead on the Flint, and other residential communities along Tara Boulevard. Many families live in the area, whose traffic pattern and pedestrian, wheelchair, and cyclist accommodations are anything but family-friendly.

This sidewalk on the northbound side of Tara Boulevard is typical of those areas of Tara Boulevard that actually have a sidewallk. Most don’t. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

County and local officials have had to navigate assorted jurisdictions in trying to solve the problem. Tara Boulevard is a U.S. highway (U.S. 19) and a state highway (GA 3) that crosses incorporated and unincorporated parts of Clayton County. In May, Clayton County, Jonesboro, and Lovejoy won a $400,000 grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission for a study to upgrade Tara Boulevard. That study “aims to improve pedestrian safety, access to bus routes, and catalyze development at three locations along Tara Boulevard: Upper Riverdale Road, the City of Jonesboro and the City of Lovejoy. The goal is a re-imagined corridor that becomes a true gateway for Clayton County.”

This heavily-used unofficial crossing was not part of that study.

According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, eight people died and 17 were seriously injured between I-75 and Flint River Road on Tara Boulevard between 2011 and 2015. (More than 30 people, both pedestrians and drivers, died on Tara Boulevard in the first half of last year alone.)

Those figures came from a GDOT study for proposed pedestrian and bike safety improvements for 2018-2022.

The average distance between Tara Boulevard’s marked crossings in the study was 2,839 feet. That’s an average of more than half a mile between crosswalks.

The same study also noted GDOT District 7 focus corridors, including Old Dixie Road, which is part of U.S. 19. At the time, GDOT noted 4 fatalities and 3 serious injuries between Tara Boulevard and Hilltop Drive. That stretch of highway includes several motels and single-family homes, as well as gas stations with convenience stores.

Southbound view of Old Dixie Road (Georgia Hwy. 3) near Hilltop Drive, also an area with heavy pedestrian fatalities and injuries. (Google Maps photo)
Southbound view of Old Dixie Road (Georgia Hwy. 3) near I-75, also an area with heavy pedestrian fatalities and injuries. (Google Maps photo)

Tara Boulevard is being widened near the Harold R. Banke Justice Center, a $23.6 million, 3.6-mile project that was awarded in 2019 by GDOT to C.W. Mathews.

In January, Clayton County Police arrested three people after a road rage incident near Tara Boulevard and Arrowhead Boulevard led to a high-speed chase.

In July 2021, at least 31 people had been killed on Tara Boulevard in the first six months of that year. Clayton County Police Officer Armando Mendoza and Hue Phan, 81, died after Phan t-boned Mendoza’s police cruiser at the treacherous intersection of Tara Boulevard and North Main Street.

In 2020, an asphalt worker was struck and killed on Tara Boulevard near McDonough Road in Lovejoy.

In March 2019, a man was struck and killed while crossing Tara Boulevard near Georgia Hwy. 54, and a woman was killed in a hit-and-run near Tara and Upper Riverdale Road.

The Clayton County Specialized Traffic Accident Reconstruction (STAR) Team is investigating Sunday’s hit-and-run incident.

If you have any information, please call the Clayton County Police Department at (770) 473-3983 or Crime Stoppers at (404) 577-TIPS.

Our previous coverage of Tara Boulevard dangers:

“Clayton County at the crossroads,” July 22, 2021

“Franklin seeks state, federal road safety funds,” July 27, 2021

“Clayton County wins Tara Blvd. upgrades grant,” May 16, 2022

Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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