A View from the Top - Searching the Heart

Gordon Cherr, December 16, 2021

This man killed my friend.

He chose to drive on Springhill Road in this county one fine evening at nearly 90 mph if not faster, for reasons he will not share, crossed the centerline in an out of control skid, and struck Paul who was standing on the opposite shoulder of the road, waiting for him to pass. Standing in a pedestrian crosswalk no less. I’ll spare you the witness details, but Paul, taking an early evening run in the Apalachicola National Forest, was dead before he landed back on the pavement. I visited the scene soon thereafter, and there was an eyewitness. I have litigated over a thousand auto accident cases over 25 years, it was not difficult to see what had happened.

There are no excuses.

It gets worse from there. He didn’t stop but left Paul, another human being, laying dead in the roadway like so much roadkill. He ran away. He torched the car, he hid out for a year or more until captured.

There are no excuses.

I knew Paul Hoover since the early 1980s. We were friends, competitors, sometimes running buddies. He was fast back in the day, I never beat him at any distance. But he was always self effacing and dodged the limelight. He was supportive of others too, and I suppose all of this is why the many kids he coached at Wakulla High School so loved and admired him. He had a funny way of running too. He was the quintessential shuffler. Around here it was called “Hoovering” and everyone in this extended running family knew what was meant and who it meant, and it truly was a sign of respect.

Paul was a sworn law enforcement officer who worked as a wildlife officer. It was sometimes dangerous work. Sometime after he retired, he showed up wearing a deputy’s uniform, in my courtroom in the Wakulla County Courthouse. After chatting he asked if he could serve as my bailiff. Of course. Things can get mighty testy in court, especially in Family Law, but he had a way of diffusing the most difficult situations with a word or two. Not a bully but very capable of handling most any situation that came up. And I appreciated that he had my back. At all times.

I miss my friend.

I don’t have compassionate release for Mr. Strickland in me. I am sorry. I can’t speak for you. I imagine that few do. But the ironic thing is that I am sure that if you asked Paul, he would have compassionate release in his heart for the man who killed him and left him there and ran away.

Paul, you were a better man than I and many of us.

I miss my friend.



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