Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Woman guilty of hitting motorcyclists in Ruskin, driving off

TAMPA — When Dennis Meyers got home the night of July 1, 2011, he saw blood dripping from the bumper of his wife's Buick.

He tried to call 911, but Susanne Meyers ripped their house phone from the wall, he testified in court Tuesday. When he pulled out his cellphone, she took that from him, too.

She knew she had hit a pair on a motorcycle, prosecutors contended, but was afraid to report it because she had drinks that night. Her attorneys say she didn't know what she hit on that dark portion of U.S. 41 in Ruskin.

She had hit Thomas Colson, a grandfather and owner of the Big Dog chopper, and his friend Galilee Howard, a retired widow who had a picture of Jesus with her the night of the crash.

Tuesday evening, jurors sided with prosecutors. After deliberating just over an hour, they convicted Susanne Meyers, 53, on both counts of leaving the scene of a crash with death.

A group of two dozen friends, family members and motorcyclists saved tears and hugs until they were out of the courtroom.

"I'm ecstatic," said Colson's younger sister, Sunnie Hartless, 57. "I promised him justice would be done."

"It has been stressful," said Howard's son-in-law, James Pugh.

They say they're looking forward to sentencing, which will likely be in May.

During the daylong trial, the defense built a case of a crash that lasted less than a second.

The odometer on the motorcycle rested at 92 mph. The road was dark.

"If Ms. Meyers had blinked, she could have missed it," said defense attorney Kenneth Littman.

She would have at least heard the impact, the state countered, and she should have stopped.

That's what Umesh Bhakta did. He was driving to his Ruskin home that night when he ran over debris from the crash. He pulled over and found a motorcycle and two bodies in the grass.

Both Colson, 62, and Howard, 69, died at the scene.

The pair had been driving home from a motorcycle club gathering on Colson's Big Dog chopper. He was a lifelong biker and loved sharing his adventures with Howard.

Meyers chose not to testify Tuesday, but the jurors heard her voice. Troopers had two recorded interviews with her, the first several hours after the crash, after she had been told about the deaths.

In that 14-minute recording, Meyers is quiet and emotional. She repeatedly says she does not know why she did not stop.

"I don't know. I really didn't see anything," she said.

She mumbles something about always being conscientious about motorcyclists.

"I ride on the back of one with my husband," she said.

Listening, Meyers started crying in court. Her now-former husband sat with the victims' families.

He said the damage to her Buick was noticeable that night. He used a flashlight to further inspect it before trying to call deputies. After tussling with Susanne Meyers for the phone, he called 911.

Investigators were soon on their doorstep.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

Woman guilty of hitting motorcyclists in Ruskin, driving off 02/26/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 11:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Kevin Kiermaier: Return to action Thursday 'didn't set the world on fire'

    The Heater

    Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier's return from the hip injury that sidelined him since June 8 could have gone better Thursday in Port Charlotte. He broke two bats and went hitless in two at bats while playing for the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs.

    Kevin Kiermaier takes cuts in the cage during batting practice before the game between the Rays and Texas Rangers Saturday at Tropicana Field. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  2. U.S. economy gathers steam in second quarter

    Business

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy revved up this spring after a weak start to the year, fueled by strong consumer spending. But the growth spurt still fell short of the optimistic goals President Donald Trump hopes to achieve through tax cuts and regulatory relief.

    A government report released Friday showed economic output picked up in the second quarter. 
[Associated Press file photo]
  3. What you need to know about Bucs training camp

    Bucs

    Bucs training camp is here.

    This morning was the first of 13 practices that are free and open to the general public, so we have all the details to answer your questions about where and when and so on.

    Dirk Koetter is nothing if not precise, with practices starting at 8:45 a.m. and running until 10:27. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. Fennelly: It's high time for Bucs to take Tampa Bay back

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Welcome to the proving ground.

    Bucs training camp begins today.

    Hard Knocks and flop sweat.

    Work and more work.

    "We have a lot to prove,'' wide receiver Mike Evans (13) says. "We're good on paper, but we've got to do it." [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. Old dog's lucky day: Video shows firefighters rescuing 12-year-old Shar-Pei mix from bay

    Pets

    MIAMI BEACH — Junior spent Thursday night lounging on a pillow, too tired to move.

    Jose Ruiz takes a selfie with his dog named Junior after Junior was rescued from Biscayne Bay. [Photo courtesy of Jose Ruiz via Miami Herald]