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Polk man leaves bar, runs over girlfriend, returns to bar, deputies say

Charles Polen, 40, faces charges of DUI manslaughter, leaving the scene of a crash involving death and driving without a license.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office said Charles Polen, 40, ran over and killed his girlfriend before turning around and going back to the bar where they'd been drinking. [Polk County Sheriff's Office]

Charles Polen was back at the bar by the time Polk County deputies showed up to the scene of the crash.

He told deputies he didn’t want to get into trouble.

That was, however, after he had left the bar and run over his girlfriend, killing her, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Polen, 40, now faces charges of DUI manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident involving death and driving without a license in connection to the death of 40-year-old Deborah Jo Hershberger.

According to Polen’s arrest report, he and Hershberger had been drinking at the Coop, a bar along Scenic Highway in east Polk County’s Babson Park, one mile east of School Bus Road, on Saturday night. He told deputies he had been drinking during the day, then had about eight or 10 cans of Michelob Ultra Light at the bar.

Polen told deputies he drove himself and Hershberger to the Coop in Hershberger’s 2002 blue Dodge Neon. Witnesses said they saw the two drinking there for several hours.

According to the arrest report, Polen said Hershberger got into an argument with another man at the bar and the two had to be separated. Then, he and Hershberger got into an argument because she asked for the car keys, but he didn’t want her to drive because she was drunk.

She left on foot. Polen stayed to finish his beer.

A short while later, Polen decided to go after Hershberger, so he took her car, deputies said. He headed east on Scenic Highway and only drove about 900 feet before he tried swerving to avoid an object in the dark, rural road. He hit it but didn’t see what it was and kept driving, he told deputies.

It wasn’t until he looped around and saw people starting to gather that he realized he had hit a person. Still, he went back to the bar.

A woman called 911 and said she had just swerved out of the way but thought there was a body lying in the road. Deputies arrived to find Hershberger.

As authorities began their investigation, Polen saw the lights and attention around the scene, so he walked there from the bar. He left Hershberger’s damaged and bloodied car parked on a patch of grass next to the Coop’s fence.

Deputies said Polen was emotional and upset. He had to be restrained from trying to get to Hershberger’s body and asked if she was the victim. He told deputies they’ve been dating for years and lived together. Deputies said he first told them he never left the bar, then later admitted to hitting Hershberger and driving away.

Polen was presumed intoxicated and booked into Polk County Jail, where he received a breath test about seven hours after the accident. According to the Sheriff’s Office, his blood alcohol content was .046, below the legal limit of .08.

Related: Two men walking along Polk road hit and killed by semi that crossed white line, deputies say

According to court records, Polen and Hershberger were arrested for battery last February and again in November for failing to appear for the battery charge. According to that arrest report, Polen was driving when he almost hit a man riding a bicycle. An argument followed and Polen attacked the man, with Hershberger joining in. The charges were dropped earlier this month.

Polen is currently being held in Polk County Jail without bail.

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