Make us your home page

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 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

  1. Philippines forces make gains in city under siege by ISIS-linked militants

    MARAWI, Philippines — Philippine forces say they now control most of a southern city where militants linked to the Islamic State group launched a bloody siege nearly a week ago.

  2. Rays exhausted but happy after 15-inning win over Twins (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Before the Rays eventually won Sunday's 6½-hour, 15-inning marathon against the Twins 8-6, they did plenty to lose it. And we need to get that out of the way first.

    The Rays’ Evan Longoria enjoys a laugh after scoring, barely, to tie it in the ninth on Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out single.
  3. Tom Jones' Two Cents: ABC's Indy 500 coverage is stellar again

    TV and Radio

    Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Takuma Sato left, celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 as Helio Castroneves is a little late passing him. ABC’s coverage of the race is stellar throughout, with plenty of extras but no fake drama.
  4. Takuma Sato surprise winner of wreck-filled Indy 500

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Takuma Sato, a journeyman driver, became the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday when he held off three-time champion Helio Castroneves in a 230-mph wheel-rubbing duel to the finish.

    Scott Dixon’s car goes over the top of Jay Howard, soaring so high that Helio Castroneves drove under it while it was airborne. Stunningly, there were no serious injuries.
  5. South Korea military: North Korea fires unidentified projectile


    SEOUL — North Korea launched a ballistic missile early today that flew 280 miles and landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone, the South Korean military and the Japanese government said.

    S. Korean President Moon Jae-in is assessing the launch.