A longtime family friend has been charged in the death of Mildred Herrin, who was struck and killed in a hit-and-run crash while working in her yard Monday night.
Gary Driver, 49, was arrested Tuesday and charged with criminal homicide and leaving the scene of an accident.
Criminal homicide is defined by Tennessee code as the unlawful killing of another person, which may be first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, or vehicular homicide.
Herrin, 71, was reportedly hit by Driver’s red Chevy pickup while weed-eating about 15 feet off the road in her front yard on Swan Mill Road in the Viola area. Law enforcement officials say Driver left the scene, hid the truck deep in a nursery field in Grundy County, and was picked up not far from where the truck was found.
Family members were shocked to learn Driver is the one charged with Mrs. Herrin’s death.
“I know him very well and my mom knew him too,” said Rickey Collins, one of her sons. “We grew up together and he played basketball with one of my brothers. This is hard to believe.”
State trooper Rodney Whiles, who is spearheading the investigation, said Driver has offered no explanation for why he left the scene without calling for help.
“He lawyered up and isn’t saying anything,” said Whiles.
As for whether Driver was impaired at the time of the collision, Whiles said, “By the time we got him it was 24 hours later so there’s no way of knowing.”
District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis said she couldn’t speculate on whether an immediate call to 911 might have saved Mrs. Herrin’s life.
Herrin was seen weed-eating by the road Monday night around 5:15 p.m. by one of her sons who was driving past. When she couldn’t be reached later that night, family members became concerned and went to check on her. She was eventually found about 15 feet off the road behind some flowers on a slight embankment.
According to evidence at the scene, the vehicle which struck Herrin was traveling on Swan Mill Road toward Vervilla Road when it ran off the right side of the road. The driver overcorrected and in doing so went off the left side of the road and up the embankment. That’s where the truck struck Mrs. Herrin and also hit a tree.
Tips from an eyewitness, neighbors, and surveillance footage from a nearby home all provided law enforcement with key information. Also crucial was a trail left by the vehicle itself.
“After the crash, he had a brake lock up or some kind of mechanical problem that left marks in the road and led to where the truck was abandoned,” said Whiles. “We found it in Grundy County off Fred Lusk Road. It was at the back of a nursery abandoned in a wood line in a creek.”
Whiles said once the pickup with heavy front-end damage was found, Driver was determined to be the owner. “He was found in close proximity to where the vehicle was abandoned,” said Whiles.
Jail records list Driver as living on Sherwood Drive, which is located off Viola Road about 4 miles from where Herrin was struck and killed.
Zavogiannis said investigators with the Sheriff’s Department, Highway Patrol and the District Attorney’s Office all worked together to get an arrest just one day after the hit and run.
“It’s certainly a very sad event for a family to lose their mother in such a way,” said Zavogiannis. “We’re thankful for all the cooperation we received from people in that community. They provided a lot of information and it really helped in this case. There’s been an arrest but we’re not done with the investigation. We’re still collecting evidence for when we take the case before the grand jury.”
Driver was initially held without bond. During his video arraignment Thursday morning, Judge Bill Locke set bond at $100,000. Should he make bond, Driver is directed to wear a GPS monitor.
Mrs. Herrin was described as a very active lady who would work from sun up till sun down.
In addition to working on her farm, she also worked at Walmart in Manchester. High Funeral Home is handling her arrangements.