After downing up to 10 beers and telling his girlfriend she was too drunk to drive, a Florida man got behind the wheel himself, only to fatally run over his girlfriend as she was walking home on foot, police said.
Fort Meade resident Charles Polen, 40, and Deborah Hershberger, 40, were drinking at The Coop, a bar and restaurant in Babson Park on Saturday night when Hershberger got into an argument with another customer, according to a Polk County Sheriff’s Office probable cause affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com. Babson Park is about 70 miles east of the city of Tampa.
Polen and Hershberger then began arguing over the keys to their car, a Dodge Neon. Hershberger wanted to drive home but Polen didn’t want her to because he felt she had drank too much, according to the affidavit.
“The defendant [Polen] then stated the victim left the business on foot,” the affidavit said, adding that Polen had told investigators “he did not go after her because he wanted to finish his beer.”
Just 900 feet from the bar, Hershberger was struck by a vehicle and sustained a significant head injury, according to the sheriff’s department. A woman called 911 to report that she had to swerve to avoid hitting a body in the road, according to a press release.
Hershberger was dead when deputies arrived on the scene, authorities said.
Polen then walked from the bar to the scene where “he had to be restrained from entering the scene as he was asking if the victim was Hershberger,” according to the press release. The probable cause affidavit described him as “very emotional and visually upset.”
While Polen claimed during initial questioning he hadn't left the bar after his girlfriend, he soon broke down crying and admitted to investigators that he had lied and was in fact the driver behind the fatal collision, authorities said.
“The defendant then stated he struck the victim with the Dodge Neon, however, it was an accident,” the affidavit states. “The defendant stated he was operating the vehicle at the time of the incident and was attempting to locate the victim after she left The Coop.”
Polen at some point realized he hit someone but didn't stop, instead driving back near the bar, officials stated. Authorities observed dents to the car consistent with a collision, as well as a "substantial amount of apparent blood on the undercarriage."
Polen allegedly admitted to drinking eight to 10 cans of Michelob Ultra beer at the bar, after consuming alcohol earlier in the day, according to the affidavit. He's been charged with leaving the scene of a crash involving death, DUI manslaughter, and driving without a license. He is being held without bail and it is not clear if he has an attorney who can speak on his behalf.
A spokesperson for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office told Oxygen.com that Polen was arrested last year for battery, and failure to appear for battery and marijuana and paraphernalia charges. He also has a history of arrests in Ohio, where he previously lived: for assault in 2001, non-support of a child in 2005, and domestic violence in 2006.
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