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'An unspeakable tragedy': Pinellas family asks for help finding deadly hit-and-run driver in St. Pete

Posted at 5:26 PM, Oct 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-07 11:53:01-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — St. Pete police need your help finding a driver who they say hit and killed a Pinellas County grandfather and then fled from the crash.

Hollis “Jess” Heatherley, of Clearwater, would have turned 59 on Wednesday, Oct. 6. He was killed just three days before his birthday and three days before his fourth grandchild was expected to be born.

Heatherley’s son Heath tells ABC Action News reporter Sarah Hollenbeck that his dad couldn’t have been more excited to meet his new grandson.

Hollis “Jess” Heatherley, the victim in a deadly hit-and-run in St. Pete

Yet, all of those special moments were snatched from the Heatherley family when a driver hit and killed Hollis, better known as Jess, in a crosswalk Sunday night around 9:30 p.m.

“Somebody knows this person. Somebody knows who is driving this car and we need your help in order to give closure to the family,” explained Sgt. Michael Schade of the St. Petersburg Police Department.

Sgt. Schade just released a still frame photo from surveillance video showing the black sports car investigators say hit Heatherley on Oct. 3.

Police said on Thursday that they found the vehicle involved but have yet to identify the driver.

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Detectives also shared a photo of some of the car parts left behind at the intersection of 1st Avenue North and 16th Street North. Detectives say the car would have visible damage to the left and front of the vehicle.

“There’s obvious damage to the car so somebody knows who that person is and where that car is located and we’re asking for help to get that information,” Sgt. Schade added.

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ABC Action News dug up the numbers and found out Florida and Tampa Bay are hot spots for hit and run crashes. So far in 2021, there have been 71,991 hit and run crashes across Florida killing 190 people. 14,534 of those were in Tampa Bay, killing 34 people.

“A lot of these hit and runs people panic and they leave and if they had stayed on the scene and talked with investigators it could be a totally different outcome for them than what they are facing now,” added Sgt. Schade.

Heatherley’s wife and sons are asking anyone who knows something about the crash to come forward, calling it an “unspeakable tragedy.”

Hollis “Jess” Heatherley, the victim in a deadly hit-and-run in St. Pete

Detectives say Heatherley was attempting to cross 1st Ave. N. in the crosswalk and was hit by a driver traveling west on 1st Avenue North, which is a one-way road. The driver of the vehicle did not stop. Heatherley was in the crosswalk.

Anyone with information about the driver, the damaged vehicle, or who witnessed the crash is urged to call St. Pete PD’s non-urgent emergency line at 727-893-7780 or text the letters SPPD and your tip to TIP411.