LARGO — A driver who hit a pedestrian early Wednesday near St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport said the man appeared out of nowhere and stepped in front of her car.
"There was nothing in the road when I came up through there and all of a sudden he was at my right side (of my car)," said Susan K. West. "There was nothing I could do."
Julio Silverwolf, a transgender man who lived in Clearwater, was pronounced dead at the scene of the 1:45 a.m. crash.
Silverwolf, 57, had been arrested earlier Tuesday for driving under the influence and had been released from the Pinellas County Jail an hour before the accident.
Friend Ed Smith of Clearwater said Wednesday that Silverwolf had been upset over financial issues.
West said she can't speculate whether Silverwolf accidentally or intentionally stepped into the path of her car.
Silverwolf was born a woman and was formerly known as Julia Roach. She was married for 18 years before divorcing Larry Roach in 2004.
Two years ago, Silverwolf made national news when the ex-husband petitioned a judge to stop alimony payments because Silverwolf had undergone gender reassignment surgery after the couple's divorce. But a judge said the state of Florida still recognized Silverwolf as a woman and ordered Roach to continue paying $1,250 a month in alimony.
Smith, whom Silverwolf had listed as next of kin, said Wednesday that he and his wife were devastated by the death.
West, of Largo, was not injured and was not charged in the crash. She said Thursday she was still shaken after the accident.
"I'm sorry they lost their friend," West said, "and it has just made me sick."
Rita Farlow can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4157.