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Police arrest hit and run driver that killed Clearwater grandfather

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — A Sunday night out in October turned into heartbreak for the family of 58-year-old Hollis “Jessie” Heatherley.

The husband, father and grandfather died in a hit and run crash just days before the birth of a grandchild he never got to meet.

“It’s an incredible loss,” the Heatherley family’s attorney Jim Magazine said. “Incredible family man close to his sons, incredibly close to his wife they had such a beautiful relationship.”

Police arrested the man on Wednesday, seven months after the incident, they said was behind the wheel of a black sports car that struck the Clearwater man at the intersection of 1st Avenue North and 16th Street and then sped off.

“(The family) is so grateful for the hard work and the dedication of St. Pete police and the detectives to finally bring this man to justice for this horrible incident,” Magazine said.

Police charged 31-year-old Danzel Hammonds with leaving the scene of a crash involving death and tampering with physical evidence.

It only took three days for investigators to find his car.

“They had the benefit of identifiable parts left at the scene,” St. Petersburg police spokesperson Ken Knight said.

The arrest affidavit said DNA swabbed from the car’s steering wheel matched the sample from the suspect.

“I can’t tell you how many times the widow called me crying,” Magazine said. “She would talk to the detectives and they would tell her we have to wait on the DNA, we have to make sure everything is right.”

News Channel 8 asked Magazine whether he believes Hammonds should face a more serious charge, such as vehicular homicide.

“What they want to do is make sure that they charge him appropriately,” he said. “So that he can get convicted and do the time. They don’t want to charge him with something they can’t convict him.”

Jail records show Hammonds has already bonded out.

Magazine said next week he plans to file a negligent wrongful death civil lawsuit on behalf of Heatherley’s widow.

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