By the time I talked to Leatrice McKnight, I thought I had spoken to enough relatives of people killed by hit-and-run drivers to have some idea of how our conversation would go: With Philadelphia police only solving about one out of every three fatal crashes, not good.

Last week, I wrote about Angela Kee, a great-grandmother killed on a deadly stretch of Crescentville Road with a bus stop that defies logic. Afterward, similar stories poured in.

Heartbroken friends and relatives spoke of loved ones hurt or killed by drivers who were never held accountable.

Frustrated residents spoke of unheeded pleas to public officials to improve conditions on roads and at bus stops that contribute to an increasing number of injuries and deaths.

Police Capt. Mark Overwise, commanding officer of the city’s Accident Investigation District, has long said that two of the toughest challenges his investigators face when trying to solve fatal crashes are a lack of manpower and the absence of technical tools to more quickly and efficiently process and solve cases.

When we spoke this week, his frustration was obvious, especially with drivers who flee accident scenes, leaving injured pedestrians for dead and sending a cascade of grief over family, friends, and loved ones.

“I wish I could talk to everybody and say, ‘Listen, the decision to leave is much worse, has far heavier consequences than the decision to stay and just tell us what happened,’” Overwise said. “If the person would just come forward and say, ‘Listen, I’m sorry, I made a mistake ...,’ it would be so much better for the families.”

But until these people grow a conscience, it’s on police to solve the cases with the resources they have.

And while police officials have a way to go to upgrade equipment and increase the number of accident investigators in their ranks, they recently approved the acquisition of new tools — including a laser scanner to help precisely reconstruct an accident and a rapid response vehicle — that Overwise believes will help.

In 2019, there were nine fatal hit-and-runs, according to Overwise’s figures. The number of fatalities tripled to 28 in 2020. Last year, there were 23. And barely two months into the new year, there have already been four more additions to the grim tally of fatal accidents that have little to no chance of being solved.

But then, against the odds, there is Leatrice McKnight.

McKnight’s 41-year-old son, Curtis, was killed on Jan. 26 at the corner of Fifth Street and Hunting Park Avenue around 7 p.m., after leaving work as a security guard in Center City. The father of two was her only son.

He was later found facedown on the street.

Distraught and desperate for answers, the family held a vigil on Monday.

McKnight was reluctant to go to the same location where her son was killed, but the family hoped the public display would lead to an arrest.

“He was life,” said Dana Martin, who is married to one of McKnight’s brothers. “He was the one that would always bring people together. He was always just a fun time, a responsible family man. He made sure to connect with his family, to always tell them that he loved them.”

After getting home that night, Leatrice McKnight was emotionally spent, but she called the detective on her son’s case. She hadn’t expected to reach him, let alone get the news he shared.

A young man had turned himself in, McKnight said the detective told her.

She could hardly believe it.

I could hardly believe what she told me after learning a driver had confessed to killing her son.

“I am relieved, but also full of compassion for this young man and his family,” she said tearfully.

Many of us, with grief so fresh, would be hard-pressed to function. And here was this mother, preparing to bury her son, yet showing compassion to the young man accused of killing him.

McKnight doesn’t know all the details yet — she was told that the young man was accompanied by his father and a lawyer. But she said that as a mother, she could easily put herself in the place of a parent who perhaps counseled a stubborn child to drive more carefully or slow down.

McKnight recalled her son as a good guy, a kindhearted man. But through tear-streaked laughter, she said, he could also be hardheaded.

“Yes, I lost my child, but for his parents to turn him in — they didn’t ship him off down south, they turned him in, so that says a lot about this child’s parents, so that’s where my compassion is,” she said. “I want justice to be done, but I also have compassion for the young man.”

Stunned by her grace, but also encouraged that other families might find a similar resolution one day, I picked up my phone and texted Stanley Kee, the only son of the woman killed on Crescentville Road just a few weeks before Curtis McKnight.

Had he heard anything more about his mother’s death? I texted, hopefully. Maybe, I thought, someone else’s conscience had moved them to do the right thing for this grieving son, too.

The answer came quickly:

No.