Mashayla Harper was driving home from her baby shower when she was struck by a driver

By Eric Todisco
January 08, 2020 10:50 AM
Mashayla Harper Go Fund Me
Credit: Go Fund Me

A 24-year-old Mississippi teacher tragically lost her unborn child eight months into her pregnancy after she was struck by a hit-and-run driver on the way home from her baby shower, Sgt. J.D. Carter of the Jones County Sheriff’s Department confirmed to PEOPLE.

Mashayla Harper was transported to the hospital in critical condition after she was discovered lying along the roadway in Soso when her Honda Accord was struck head-on by a 2005 Nissan Titan. The accident occurred just before 6 p.m. local time Saturday, Sgt. Carter confirmed.

Harper, a fourth-grade teacher, had been driving back from her baby shower when her car was struck by the Nissan.

Sgt. Carter said that that the driver, 33-year-old James Gilbert, fled the scene on foot. Hours later, newly elected sheriff Joe Berlin called Gilbert’s wife and got her to contact the suspect and allow police to take him in.

Gilbert has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident that caused death or injuries and he is being held on a $100,000 bond. The charge and bond could be increased depending on his blood test results, Sgt. Carter said.

Sgt. Carter also said that Gilbert admitted that he had been drinking before getting behind the wheel.

“I was scared,” he told local outlet The Laurel-Leader Call when asked why he ran away. “I’m very sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Harper has been transferred from South Central Regional Medical Center to Forrest General, where she underwent surgery, the outlet reported.

Sgt. Carter confirmed, per Harper’s family, that she is awake but remains in critical condition.

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE’s free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.

Harper’s father, Maurice Pruitt Sr., shared an emotional message on Facebook, along with photos from her baby shower earlier that day.

“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. “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.”

A GoFundMe page was started Tuesday to help pay Harper’s medical bills.