On Friday, June 3, 2011, PCSO Traffic deputies arrested a Lake Wales woman and charged her with 1 count Leaving the Scene of a Crash Involving Death, and 1 count Destroying/Tampering WIth Physical Evidence, after investigation revealed that over a year ago she struck a pedestrian in Gordonville and then fled the scene. The pedestrian suffered critical wounds, which led to his death 8 months later.
According to the affidavit, around 8:00 p.m. on February 21, 2010, 73-year-old Carlos Fernandez of 3300 Old Bartow Eagle Lake Road in Gordonville (Bartow) was pushing a stove on a dolly alongside Old Bartow Eagle Lake Road when a vehicle traveling southbound struck the stove, and then Fernandez. The vehicle briefly slowed, but then accelerated and fled the scene. The driver did not render aid to Fernandez nor summon emergency personnel.
Fernandez's son, Carlos E. Fernandez, was able to obtain a partial tag number from the suspect vehicle, which he gave to PCSO deputies. PIO Donna Wood also sent out a Crime Stoppers bulletin to local media outlets to assist with identifying the driver.
On October 8, 2010, the elder Fernandez died as a result of a staph infection contracted while recovering from the extensive injuries he received after being struck by the car.
After months' worth of combining possible tag numbers to match the suspect vehicle description, deputies were able to pair a possible tag number containing some of the numerals and letters given to them by Fernandez's son with a car that matched the suspect vehicle. The tag was registered to a Palm Bay, Florida, address. The person living at that address told deputies the car belonged to Robert Leonard of Bartow.
Deputies interviewed Leonard, who stated he had reported the car stolen the day after the crash, February 22nd, and that it had been recovered on the same day with windshield and front end damage. After further interviews with Leonard, he told deputies that his girlfriend, Sherri Williams, may have been involved in the crash.
On June 3, 2011, deputies interviewed Sherri Williams, DOB 9/10/60, of 209 C Street in Lake Wales, who admitted to striking "a large appliance, possibly a washing machine" on February 21, 2010, on Old Bartow Eagle Lake Road. Williams said she was unaware she had also struck a person. She said she then decided to abandon the car on Agricola Road in Bartow, and that her boyfriend Robert Leonard reported it stolen because she did not tell him she had purposely abandoned the car.
Williams was placed under arrest without incident and booked into the Polk County Jail on the aforementioned charges.