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DUI suspect denies blame in two fatal crashes in Tampa

TAMPA — Randy Archiquette asked for a lawyer after he learned that two women had died in a string of car crashes he was accused of causing while driving drunk.

But first, he had something to say to the Tampa police detective who came to interview him at St. Joseph's Hospital.

"This is not my fault," Archiquette said, according to a conversation recalled by Detective Rod Glyder.

"Whose fault is it?" the detective asked.

"It was anybody but mine," Archiquette said.

Prosecutor Barbara Coleman argued otherwise in court Friday, saying the Riverview man showed "extreme disregard for human life" by driving with a 0.147 blood alcohol level. Betty Williams, 69, and Brittany McFarland, 20, died in separate crashes.

The trail of destruction convinced Hillsborough Judge Walter Heinrich to keep Archiquette, 39, jailed without bail until his trial on a host of charges, including DUI-manslaughter and vehicular homicide.

"I want to make sure our community is protected from you," the judge said.

Though investigators and witnesses provided more details Friday about Archiquette's behavior on the road, no information was made public regarding his whereabouts before the crashes or where he was headed.

Archiquette Archiquette was honorably discharged from the Army after 12 years of service, Assistant Public Defender Maura Doherty said. He has two young daughters, and his wife of nearly a decade serves in the Army Reserve.

A series of state witnesses painted a more troubling picture of the man.

Defense attorney Will Knight was headed to his law office about 3:30 p.m. Monday afternoon when he saw Archiquette's gold Chevrolet Yukon weaving on and off Adamo Drive. Knight said he pulled up beside the SUV, honking and trying to get the driver's attention.

Archiquette was gripping the steering wheel with both hands and seemed to be staring at it instead of the road, Knight said.

After the SUV rear-ended a semitrailer at 28th Street, Knight called 911.

"This guy's going to kill somebody," he remembers telling the operator.

By the time police found Archiquette's SUV resting upside down on Florida Avenue about 30 minutes later, he had also rear-ended a Crown Victoria, sent Williams' car into a utility pole, blown through the intersection at Hillsborough Avenue and hit McFarland's car head-on, Coleman said.

McFarland's spinning car hit a tow truck driven by Joe Lopresto, who crashed into a tree.

"I'm still hurting all over," said Lopresto, who suffered head, neck and back pain. "I've never seen anything like that."

Lopresto said he wished he could have helped McFarland, an aspiring nursing student. Knight, one of several people who called 911, said he wished someone could have made Archiquette stop.

Williams' family, preparing for her funeral today, were pleased that the judge was keeping Archiquette locked up.

"That," said Williams' daughter, Betty King, "could have happened to any of us."

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

DUI suspect denies blame in two fatal crashes in Tampa 04/17/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 2:10pm]
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