One year later: Geneau family launches non-profit in honor of matriarch killed in hit-and-run crash

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The family of Deborah Ann Geneau has launched a non-profit on the one year anniversary of her passing.

Geneau, a 65-year-old grandmother and mother, was killed in a crash on July 22, 2020 on Stockdale Hwy near Don Hart Dr. The driver who caused the crash fled the scene, but nine months later the Bakersfield Police Department arrested 42-year-old Stephanie Heninger of Bakersfield, charging her with manslaughter and felony hit-and-run.

Bakersfield Police Officer Chad Ott, who worked doggedly on the case, met Geneau’s daughter Dawn Elliott for the first time on Thursday.

“Thank you so much,” a tearful Elliott said to Ott as they met at the KGET studios. “The day you called me and told me that there had been an arrest made. I I could have fallen out of my chair. I almost did,” she continued.

While the arrest was a relief for the family, the pain of losing their matriarch remains.

“She was 110% family. Everything was about family,” Elliott said of her late mother’s care for her loved ones. “Just knowing my family will never have another Christmas with my mom, and the other people in the accident will get to continue with their lives.”

One year after Geneau’s death, her family is looking to make a difference to honor their mother and grandmother. Dawn and her husband, Joe Elliott Jr., founded “Helping Hit and Run Tragedies“, a non-profit dedicated to assisting law enforcement agencies and families directly impacted by hit-and-run tragedies.

“[We want to] give back to the people that have gone through what we’ve gone through and assist law enforcement [to] make their job a little bit easier if that’s possible,” Joe said. “Wherever we can help out is where we want to be,” he continued.

Dawn said the non-profit, also referred to by its acronym HHART, will offer assistance through home remodels or vehicle modifications to anyone who has developed handicaps as a result of hit-and-run crashes. Additionally, the non-profit would like to offer scholarships to children who lost a parent to a hit-and-run.

“I will be able to continue doing things in memory of my mom, “Dawn said. “Therefore, my mom is still with me. Helping me. Really neat that I get to work with my mom for the rest of my life.”

Anyone wishing to make a donation to HHART may do so by visiting helpinghart.org or by emailing hhart@helpinghart.org.

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