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Feb 24, 2020

Polk deputies arrest a Fort Meade man arrested for DUI manslaughter and other charges after he strikes and kills his girlfriend on the road

Media Contact: Brian Bruchey, PIO

Deputies from the Polk County Sheriff's Office responded to a report of a vehicle-pedestrian crash in Babson Park late Saturday night, February 22, 2020, and found one victim in the roadway deceased with trauma to the head and body. The victim was identified as 40-year-old Deborah Hershberger of Fort Meade.

Hershberger's boyfriend, 40-year-old Charles Polen of Fort Meade, was arrested by deputies when they discovered that he was driving the car that struck her then left the scene.

The Emergency Communications Center (ECC) received a 911 call at about 11:22 pm, and the caller stated that she may have struck a pedestrian on Scenic Highway, about a  mile east of School Bus Road in Babson Park. She said that she saw a person lying in the roadway and swerved to avoid contact.

During the investigation, deputies determined that the caller's vehicle did not hit Hershberger.

Polen approached on foot and had to be restrained from entering the scene as he was asking if the victim was Hershberger.

Polen told the deputies that he and Hershberger had been drinking alcohol at a nearby bar & grill, when she left on foot. Deputies found Polen's blue 2002 Dodge Neon in the parking lot of that business and found front-end damage and blood on the car.

When confronted with the findings, Polen admitted that after Hershberger left the bar, he began driving the Neon to look for her. He said that as he was driving east on Scenic Highway, looking for Hershberger on the north side of the road when he struck something. Polen claimed that he believed it was an animal, but when he turned around, he saw a person lying in the road, and believed it was Hershberger.

Rather than check on the victim, he drove back to the bar and awaited the arrival of law enforcement to arrive, then walked to the scene to check if the person was Hershberger.

It was determined that Polen was impaired. He was arrested and was transported to the Polk County Jail. He was charged with Leaving the Scene of a Crash Involving Death (F1), DUI Manslaughter (F2), and Driving with No License (M2).

The crash remains under investigation.