updated 2/23/2007 1:28:13 PM ET 2007-02-23T18:28:13

A man received a suspended jail sentence after confessing to running down an elderly churchgoer with a car, then leaving the scene more than half a century ago.

Verlyn Brady, 77, pleaded guilty Thursday to reckless driving in the 1953 hit-and-run death of George Lewis Dalton in this small southwest Virginia town.

Brady said he wondered for years whether it was a deer or a person he struck one October night. He waited until last summer, just before he underwent open heart surgery, to contact authorities.

Dalton, 74, and his wife were crossing a road in front of their home about two miles south of Hillsville on their way to church when he was killed. The driver disappeared into the darkness.

Brady said he was blinded by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle and was not sure what he had struck. He inspected the car later and found a broken headlight and blood on the bumper.

He said he saw a newspaper account of the accident at the time and wondered all these years whether he was responsible. A teenager known for speeding around town was suspected but cleared of the deadly accident.

In addition to a suspended jail sentence, Brady was fined $500 and had his driving privileges restricted for six months.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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