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Driver from Largo charged in crash that killed a pedestrian

Published Aug. 27, 2005

A woman has been charged with DUI-manslaughter in connection with an Aug. 21 crash that killed an 81-year-old man.

Jennifer Butler, 26, was arrested Friday, then released from the Pinellas County Jail after posting $25,000 bail. Her attorney has entered a plea of not guilty on her behalf.

Largo police say Butler was impaired when she struck and killed James T. "Jimmy" Hitchcock near the intersection of Keene Road and East Bay Drive.

Blood drawn from Butler after the crash showed that she had blood-alcohol levels of 0.194 and 0.196, both of which are more than twice the limit at which Florida law presumes a motorist is too impaired to drive safely.

Police said Butler was driving a 1998 Honda south on Keene Road just after 8 p.m. that night. Hitchcock was walking across Keene Road, pushing a shopping cart full of groceries. Butler's Honda struck him and tossed him onto the windshield, arrest reports say.

Hitchcock was thrown off the car and landed near the sidewalk on the east side of Keene Road. He was taken by helicopter to Bayfront Medical Center and pronounced dead at 10:58 p.m.

Butler later told police that she thought she had hit a shopping cart, so she kept going. She turned around and went back to the crash site after another motorist told her she had hit someone, reports say.

Officers who spoke with Butler noticed the smell of alcohol on her breath, reports say. She did poorly on field sobriety tests, arrest reports say, but she was not arrested that night.

A warrant was issued for her arrest Jan. 7. Butler, who once lived in Largo, now lists a home address in Staten Island, N.Y., court records show.

Her record includes a 2002 battery charge that was not prosecuted. She was charged the same year with possessing drug paraphernalia, for which she was fined after pleading guilty.

Hitchcock was born in Boston and came to Florida in 1985 from Virginia Beach, Va.

He was a welder for naval shipyards in San Francisco and Norfolk, Va. He also was a Navy veteran of World War II.

While in Florida, he worked part time for the Belleair Country Club and was a member of St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Largo.

He was survived by his wife of 62 years, a daughter and a granddaughter.