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Woman, 81, killed in hit-and-run accident

Police seek the driver of a red and black, U.S.-made pickup truck damaged on the passenger side.

An 81-year-old woman was killed by a hit-and-run driver Friday night after she wandered outside the assisted living facility she called home.

Dorothy Hackett Jones had lived in the facility at 4201 70th Ave. N since June. She moved there after her roommate at her former home, Baytree Lakeside Assisted Living Residents, wandered away and drowned in Joe's Creek.

Mrs. Jones' guardian, Correy Pastore, said she was in the early stages of Alzheimer's, but she had never strayed from home. Residents of the 70th Avenue home are free to come and go, he said.

No one, including Mrs. Jones' doctor, believed she had reached the point where she needed to be in a locked facility, said Pastore, who had been her guardian two years.

"Apparently, she wandered out in the street and somebody hit her," Pastore said. "It's a tragedy, poor thing."

Mrs. Jones was struck about 8:35 p.m. in front of the home on 70th Avenue, a four-lane road that runs parallel to Park Boulevard.

She died a half-hour later at Northside Hospital and Heart Institute.

Police said the vehicle that struck Mrs. Jones was a candy-apple red and black pickup, possibly a 1980s model, American-made truck. There also may be other paint colors on the truck. Witnesses described the driver only as a white male.

The truck would be damaged on the passenger side, police said.

Angie Enriquez, who owns the home, said an attendant was on duty Friday night with the home's six residents. Mrs. Jones had gone to bed early, she said.

"She would never go out at night. I don't know why she did this time," Enriquez said.

She had taken Mrs. Jones to do some shopping and to get her hair and nails done earlier in the day, Enriquez said.

Mrs. Jones' daughter, Tracie Newhouse of Tampa, described her mother as "one of those people where everybody was always coming up to me and saying, "I just love your mother.' "

Mrs. Jones came to live at the home in June after the death of her roommate, Julia Esposito.

Mrs. Jones was in the hospital when Mrs. Esposito, 84, wandered from Baytree and drowned, Pastore said.

"I really thought Julia was looking for my mother," Newhouse said. "They were so close."

Baytree, at 6411 46th Ave. N, could not take Mrs. Jones back when she was released from the hospital, Pastore said, because Mrs. Esposito's death was still under investigation.

So she moved to the 70th Avenue home.

Newhouse said her mother got excellent care at the home. Enriquez would take Mrs. Jones to her home for lunch and take her on outings, Newhouse said. "She was doing the things with her during the week I tried to do on weekends. For people to go that far is really good."

Newhouse said her mother would have disliked a more restrictive environment. "She needs to feel more a part of a home, and that was a nice, small place for her. . . . At this facility, they kept really close tabs on her."

Newhouse said she doesn't blame the home for her mother's death. "I just hope Angie doesn't have to go through any torment for not watching her properly," she said. "I've spoken to her often and know how much she tries."

She has a harder time dealing with the fact that the person who hit her mother didn't stop, she said. "Someone actually hit her and left her, and that was a pretty horrible thing to do."

Her mother had moved to the Seminole area about 1970, Newhouse said. She sold real estate for years, winning numerous sales awards. She gave up the business about a decade ago, after she got breast cancer, Newhouse said.

Mrs. Jones also is survived by a son, Mark Jones of St. Petersburg, and another daughter Carol Heimrich of Webster, N.Y.

"She was a well-respected member of the community," Pastore said. "A lot of people are going to be in awe to hear this."

Pastore, a professional guardian, said he was shaken by Mrs. Jones' death.

"We're in the dying business as guardians. We care for people in the twilight of their lives. When you know they're going to go, you accept it somewhat," he said. "But when an accident like this happens, so useless, it just hurts."

"She was a wonderful person," Pastore said. "She was a love."

_ Pinellas Park police ask anyone with information about the pickup or its driver to call investigator J.R. McNeill at 541-0758.