Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Teen faces third-degree murder charge in wreck that killed Hernando deputy

BROOKSVILLE — Authorities charged a 17-year-old high school student Tuesday with third-degree murder for the February crash that killed a Hernando County sheriff's captain who seemed likely to lead the agency one day.

Andrew Frank Morris collided head-on with Capt. Scott Bierwiler in the early morning hours Feb. 19 along an empty two-lane road south of Brooksville. Bierwiler died instantly.

Morris, a Nature Coast Technical High student who was charged as an adult, surrendered to a Florida Highway Patrol trooper shortly after noon, walking with crutches and a back brace from his Weeki Wachee home, said his attorney, Robert Whittel of Spring Hill.

Morris also faces a count of grand theft, according to an arrest warrant that his attorney called "a bit of an overreach."

He returned home after posting a $15,000 bond at the Hernando County jail about 3 p.m.

Assistant State Attorney Peter Magrino said the case amounts to a "tragic set of circumstances that resulted in the tragic death of a career law enforcement officer."

The collision occurred at 5:45 a.m. on Powell Road. About midnight, Morris, then 16, took his mother's sport utility vehicle without permission.

Bierwiler, 42, a father of three and 22-year veteran, left for work two hours early that morning, kissing his wife as he left their Spring Hill home.

The violent wreck woke nearby homeowners and ripped apart the two vehicles.

Morris suffered two broken legs, a number of broken ribs and three broken vertebrae — among other injuries — that required extensive surgical reconstruction at a Tampa hospital, his attorney said.

In his first statement about the wreck, arrest reports indicate that Morris admitted taking the 2002 Mitsubishi Montero without his parents' consent. He told investigators he couldn't recall the crash and "was very sorry for what had occurred."

The reports leave unanswered some details surrounding the incident. The prosecutor said he could not immediately disclose why Morris took the car, where he was going or his mental state at the time of the wreck.

The wreck shook the local law enforcement community, which saw Bierwiler as a likely successor to Sheriff Richard Nugent.

Bierwiler's family released a statement late Tuesday, saying it is "grateful for the time and effort that the law enforcement agencies and State Attorney's Office have put into the investigation. The legal system will take its course, and whatever decision is made at the conclusion of the criminal proceedings, the family will support."

Both attorneys acknowledged a difficult reality about the case against Morris: It is predicated upon the statements of his parents, Andrew and George Lyle.

They reported their SUV stolen minutes before the collision. In sworn statements a day later, they said their son didn't have permission to take the vehicle.

This provided the justification for the grand theft charge and also the murder charge. A third-degree murder is a death committed in the commission of another felony, an elevated charge from vehicular homicide, which involves a death in the course of reckless driving.

Whittel, who spoke for the Lyle family, said the parents didn't want to press charges for the theft, but the prosecutor went forward. "We think it is very unfortunate," Whittel said. "It tears the family apart to think they are charging him on actions which they planned to discipline him for at home."

The charges carry a maximum 20 years in prison. Whittel said his client's injuries suggest Morris has already "suffered a severe punishment himself."

The prosecutor acknowledged the family is traumatized. But Magrino stood his ground. "The death of a law enforcement officer when he's just doing his job," said Magrino, a former cop, "… to me, that is the most important case there is."

John Frank can be reached at or (352) 754-6114.

Teen faces third-degree murder charge in wreck that killed Hernando deputy 07/21/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2009 5:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tiger Woods says medication, not alcohol, led to DUI arrest in Florida

    Public Safety

    Players arriving for a tournament this week at Muirfield Village might notice a framed picture of Tiger Woods with a resplendent smile and bright red shirt. He's posed there with the trophy, an image that embodies the excitement he once brought to golf.

    This image provided by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office on Monday, May 29, 2017, shows Tiger Woods. Police in Florida say Tiger Woods was been arrested for DUI.  [Palm Beach County Sheriff's office via AP]
  2. Manuel Noriega, Panamanian strongman toppled in U.S. invasion, dies at 83


    Gen. Manuel Noriega, the Panamanian strongman and onetime American ally who was toppled from power in a 1989 U.S. invasion and who spent more than two decades imprisoned on drug dealing and conspiracy convictions, died late Monday. He was most likely 83.

    Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega waves to newsmen after a state council meeting, at the presidential palace in Panama City, where they announced the new president of the republic in 1989. Panama's ex-dictator Noriega died Monday, May 29, 2017, in a hospital in Panama City. He was 83. [Associated Press]
  3. Austin Mahone talks Pitbull, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, his pop evolution and more


    Austin Mahone has vivid memories from his childhood visits to see his grandparents in Tampa Bay.

  4. Motorcyclist killed in Pinellas Park crash, prompting road closures


    A motorcyclist was killed early Tuesday morning when he left the roadway and possibly struck a parked vehicle in Pinellas Park.

  5. Meet the five finalists for St. Petersburg College president


    ST. PETERSBURG — In the last month, five finalists for the job of St. Petersburg College president have taken campus tours and answered questions from students, faculty and staff.

    The Douglas L. Jamerson, Jr., Midtown Center of St. Petersburg College, opened in 2015, is considered a major accomplishment by outgoing SPC president William Law. [SOPHIA NAHLI  ALLISON  |   TIMES]