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Woman is killed crossing roadway

The driver of the van that police say struck the Largo woman is charged with leaving the scene of an accident.

A Clearwater man was arrested Friday morning on charges he left the scene of a crash in which he struck a woman walking across Missouri Avenue.

The woman, 38-year-old Teressa Jane Smith, of 612 Rosery Road NW, Largo, died at the scene of the 5:30 a.m. accident, Largo police said.

Police said Robert Raymond Morrison, 44, of 1127 Pinellas St., hit Smith with the 1987 Plymouth van he was driving, then left the scene of the crash in the 900 block of Missouri Avenue.

He was charged with a second-degree felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident with death. Morrison was being held at the Pinellas County Jail Friday evening in lieu of $20,000 bail.

Police took a blood sample from Morrison to test for drugs or alcohol, which is routine in fatal crashes. Police said there were no obvious signs Morrison was under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they found him at home about four hours after the crash.

Largo police Lt. Michael Stephens said a scuff mark more than 26 feet long, possibly from Smith's shoe, was left in the roadway, indicating she was dragged or pushed in front of Morrison's van for that distance. There also was a trail of blood more than 11 feet long, Stephens said.

A witness told police the driver of the van stopped after the impact, then yelled a profanity and something to the effect of "I'm not sticking around" or "I'm leaving," Stephens said.

A witness saw Morrison's license plate and provided it to police, who found him several hours later at his home.

Morrison told police he drove to a gas station after the accident and asked a clerk to call police, then returned to the scene. But he said he didn't find anyone in the street, so he drove home, police said.

Stephens said no 911 call was placed from the gas station. A surveillance tape shows Stephens entering the station. "We don't know if any conversation took place," Stephens said. "He walked in and walked out."

According to an arrest report, Morrison said he returned to the scene, waited about five minutes and left.

"As he left the scene, he saw the fire department responding," an arrest report states. "He did not return to exchange information and continued on. He said that he knew the person he struck was injured due to the impact as well as the witness asking for him to call for an ambulance.

"The defendant stated that he also realized the impact caused his driver's side headlamp to be destroyed as a result of the crash," the arrest report said.

Morrison's ex-wife, Vickie Morrison, who lives with him, said Morrison told her he "rode up and down three or four times and he didn't see anybody" where he hit the pedestrian.

Vickie Morrison said she thinks someone had moved Smith to the side of the road and ran to call 911, making it difficult for Morrison to see her body.

"Bobby was looking for her on the road," she said. "He didn't leave just for the hell of it."

"He said he went in and told the guy at the (gas) station that someone was hit and to call police," she said. "He didn't leave the scene maliciously. He wasn't drunk and he wasn't on drugs. There's just not a malicious bone in Bobby's body."

Vickie Morrison said when he arrived home, Morrison told her about the incident. They turned on the television to see whether there were any traffic reports about the crash on the news, but there was none, she said.

"He sincerely thought she was okay," she said. "He was pretty shook up. I had to calm him down. He was in tears. Bobby feels very bad that someone lost their life."

"As soon as there was the knock on the door, I said "there's the police. Something must have happened,' " she said.

But Stephens said Morrison could not have missed the crash scene if he returned as he claims. He said Morrison seemed to show a lack of remorse: "There was no emotion at all," he said.

Vickie Morrison said Morrison was on his way to a doctor's appointment when the crash occurred. She declined to say for what, or what doctor he was going to see at that hour.

Smith's neighbors said she has lived with a man in her teal and white apartment for only a few months. The couple mostly kept to themselves, neighbors said.

Neighbors said they didn't know whether the man was her boyfriend, fiance or husband. Smith's family is in Washington state, Stephens said.

Family members could not be reached for comment Friday.

Neighbors said the family of the man Smith lived with told them the pair went to Denny's on Missouri Avenue early Friday for breakfast. They were told the couple was walking to a bus stop when Smith crossed the street and was struck.

Stephens said Smith was at fault in the crash because she crossed in front of Morrison's van. But the law states that anyone involved in a crash must stop to render aid, he said.

"That's all he had to do," Stephens said. "That's what that law is all about is to stop and render aid. Then he wouldn't be in jail."

State records show he also has been involved in five car accidents since 1994. Investigators determined he performed no improper driving actions in four of those crashes. In one of the crashes, investigators determined Morrison drove carelessly, records show.

Vickie Morrison said she hoped prosecutors would drop the charge against her ex-husband. She was trying to scrape together enough money to get him out of jail late Friday.

_ Times Researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report.