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Walmart parking lot drama ends in arrest of 77-year-old woman

HOLIDAY — Harold Koller sat on his porch Tuesday afternoon. His chest and arms still ached; his hands were covered in cuts and nicks where he had clenched the windshield wipers.

"I had a hell of a job holding on," said Koller, 65.

"I knew if I fell off the car I was going to get hurt real bad."

It started over a parking space.

Both said they had their blinkers on Monday morning, assuring ownership of the spot in the Walmart parking lot at U.S. 19 and Ridge Road in Port Richey. Evelyn Danesi was in her 2003 Buick; Koller, in his Dodge minivan.

Koller got there first. He says he looked up to see Danesi, 77, yelling at him. She would later tell police he cut her off.

Koller, a retired tow truck driver from Amsterdam, N.Y., thought nothing of it. He got out of his car and headed for the Walmart. He looked back and saw Danesi park five spots away. She walked over to the side of the minivan and bent down before continuing into the store.

Suspicious, Koller went back to check where she had been. He found a 2-foot scrape along his passenger-side door. Another scarred the back door.

He punched the number for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office into his phone and then caught up with her in the lobby.

"Ma'am, you keyed my car," he said. He was going to call authorities.

Danesi flailed and screamed and denied doing it, he says. Another shopper asked if she was okay. She stormed off toward the garden department. He walked back to her car to get her license plate number.

Koller asked a man in the parking lot for a pen. Danesi came back out. She cranked up the Buick and threw it in reverse.

Koller jumped out of the way. He said the front bumper skirted his shins as she swung the car around.

"Lady, you're nuts!" he yelled. He was now standing in front of the car.

Then, he says, she floored it.

Koller was thrown on the hood of the car. He hung on. The car went up about five or six spaces and then braked hard. Six-foot skid marks spread on the pavement. He says he tried to ease himself off.

"Stop the car. I'm going to get off the hood," he pleaded. "I swear to God I'm going to get off the hood."

He said she gunned it again.

Back and forth, she swerved around the parking lot, he said. At one point they hit a parking block. The car lurched and almost sent him reeling, but he held on.

The car careened around an AT&T store farther down the lot. Up another lane. She circled a McDonald's. Employees and customers came pouring out.

When she came to a stop, they rushed the car. Someone snatched the keys from the ignition. Out of breath, Koller stayed on the hood.

Port Richey police arrived and took written statements from witnesses. Danesi was taken to jail.

• • •

Officer Gary Lush said the two were both in shock when police arrived. It surprised him, too.

"The kids do the keying and everything," he said. "You don't get a 77-year-old that does that."

Danesi told him it was self-defense, that she thought Koller was going to hurt her, he said.

"There was no malice in this lady trying to run this guy over," Lush said.

Danesi was booked at the Land O'Lakes jail on charges of criminal mischief and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. She was released on $10,000 bail.

No one answered at her Holiday home Tuesday.

Alex Orlando can be reached at aorlando@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6247.

Walmart parking lot drama ends in arrest of 77-year-old woman 04/17/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 8:45pm]
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