Victim's loved ones devastated by hit-and-run death

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Deputies hope to find the driver they say hit and killed 74-year-old Janice R. Joy as she walked along a roadway Thursday morning. 

The Polk County Sheriff's Office said it happened at 6:30 a.m. Thursday on Duff Road, west of Sheffield Drive in north Lakeland. Detectives said another driver saw Joy walking west on Duff Rd., and then being hit. 

The witness said the truck kept going east. The witness honked, and then said the truck tapped its brakes one time, but kept going toward US Hwy 98 North.

Detectives believe Joy was hit by a dark-color 2004-2008 Ford F-150, which could be missing the side mirror found at the scene. The truck may also have front-end, passenger side, quarter panel damage, or passenger side door damage. The truck was last seen going east on Duff Road, towards US Hwy 98.

Meanwhile, her loved ones are trying to understand how the woman who beat cancer twice, has now died in such a tragedy. For the last 15 years, Joy's neighbor, Joshua Mata and his family had been looking after the 74-year-old, acting as her caregiver.  She wasn't a blood relative, but was loved as if she were.

"She was my grandma. She loved me, I loved her, that's a bond that's been shattered," Mata said. "I believe that once she was walking, she didn't know where she was going. She was just going."

Her loved ones had been through so much with her - from the death of her husband, to two bouts with cancer.  Despite her struggles, they say she was full of life.

"For her to beat cancer, beat breast cancer, lung cancer, had Alzheimer's for 10 years; for her to be killed like this? It's not fair," Mata said.

The family has set up a GoFundMe account to pay for her cremation,

Anyone who may have information about the truck or what happened is asked to call PCSO at 863-298-6200. To remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward, call 1-800-226-TIPS or visit