Twice a day, Kimberly Ferrell sets up a folding chair at her daughter's graveside and visits.
In August, Faith Sinclair, a 16-year-old honors student at Ridley High School, was crossing Chester Pike in Sharon Hill on her way to a sleepover and was fatally struck by a black Mercedes-Benz. The driver left the scene.
Yesterday, Ferrell said she would tell her daughter at her next visit that "she can rest easy."
Lemuel Payne of Upper Darby pleaded guilty yesterday to leaving the scene of an accident involving death and tampering with physical evidence. The maximum penalty is nine years for both offenses. He was being held without bail at the Delaware County jail.
Payne, 27, was arrested in October after police received a tip that he owned the car suspected to be involved and that it was parked in his garage.
After the plea, Ferrell hugged her husband, Mike, and cried on his shoulder.
"It's over," Kimberly Ferrell said. Then catching herself, she added, "It's never going to be over."
Her family would not have to endure a trial. "We can start healing," she said.
At Payne's sentencing on July 20 - five days after Sinclair would have turned 17 - Kimberly Ferrell plans to bring balloons and lead family and friends in a chorus of "Happy Birthday to You."
Ferrell, who wears three brightly colored rubber bracelets stamped "You Gotta Have Faith," said they had expected the sentencing date to be near her birthday. The bracelets were made by Sinclair's friends and sold as a fund-raiser for a scholarship in her memory.
The talented teen played the flute and planned to attend West Chester University and major in special education.
"I'm glad he admitted what he had done and he can start taking responsibility for his actions," Mike Ferrell said of Payne.
After the incident in August, Payne allegedly told his work supervisor that he was in trouble. Payne asked whether his supervisor had seen the news about the hit-and-run. Payne allegedly said that he had "hit a girl, and that she died."
In a later conversation, according to an affidavit, Payne asked the supervisor to disregard the earlier call, "and as far as they were concerned, it was hearsay."
In April, a judge revoked bail after Payne, who was on house arrest and using an electronic home monitor, was arrested at the Pinnacle Night Club on Arch Street. Detectives had received a tip that he would be at the club.
Payne also had recently made two trips to a hospital emergency room without permission. That did not violate any rules, but Payne could account for only some of the time he was away seeking treatment.