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Driver accidentally kills man who was trying to help her

She was on her way to vote when she got lost.

By JAN WESNER, Times Staff Writer
Published January 30, 2008


APOLLO BEACH - Valerie Green took a wrong turn on her to way to vote Tuesday morning, then lost control of her car, killing a man who was trying to help her.

Green, 83, pulled her 1990 Cadillac into a parking lot at the Apollo Beach Golf Club to ask for directions around 11:30 a.m.

Earl Hamm, 80, and his longtime golfing buddy, John Browning, offered to help her get turned around. As they stood near her car changing their shoes, Green apparently hit the accelerator and backed up.

Hillsborough County sheriff's reports said she kept driving in reverse, dragging Hamm under her car and then hitting a tree and a building.

Green's car finally came to rest wedged in a carport across the street at 809 Golf and Sea Blvd.

Just after the crash, Green sat nearby in a yellow lawn chair. She wasn't injured.

Later, at her home at 6431 Lake Sunrise Drive in Apollo Beach, Green said she wasn't sure how she hit Hamm.

"It was like my car was driving itself," she said.

"It was an accident. I'll regret it until the day I die. I took someone's life, and I don't even know his name.

Visibly shaken, Green couldn't remember who she had intended to vote for.

"If someone would have told me I'd leave the house this morning and kill someone, I would never believe it," she said.

State records show Green has had a Florida driver's license since at least 1978. , Her driving history is clean, according to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Sheriff's officials said the case was still under investigation late Tuesday afternoon, and no charges had been filed.

The state of Florida requires drivers over 80 to take a vision test when renewing their licenses. Records show Green last renewed her license in 2003, before the law went into effect.

Residents on Golf and Sea Boulevard gathered outside their homes after the crash.

"I left to go vote, stopped at the bank and this had happened," said Lois Shindorf, 70, whose carport was hit by Green's car.

Shindorf said she came home and saw a crashed car and ambulance in her driveway, and emergency workers administering aid to Hamm before he died.

Hamm and his wife, Marian, were from Flemingsburg, Ky., but spend the winters at 711 McCallister Ave. in Sun City. Hamm was a former bank president and city council member in Kentucky.

Friends and relatives gathered at his Sun City home Tuesday evening but didn't want to comment other than to say that Hamm would be missed.

Earl and Marian Hamm had been married 58 years, and she suffered from Alzheimer's, according to a neighbor. They used to golf together, but more recently Hamm hit the links three or four days a week with friends.

A wooden sign decorating the Hamms' front door reads:

"Gone golfing."

Jan Wesner can be reached at jwesner@sptimes.com or 813 661-2439.