Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Was reckless child or driver at fault in fatal Tampa accident?

TAMPA — Two years ago, Pete Dreydoppel ran over and killed his 3-year-old neighbor as the boy played with a toy truck. That much everyone agrees on.

Then things get murky.

This week, six jurors must decide: Was Dreydoppel, 54, too impaired to drive? Or did the child dart into the road, leaving the driver no time to react?

The Riverview resident is on trial for a host of felony charges, including driving under the influence-manslaughter. In court Wednesday, prosecutors and public defenders made their opening pitches for which way the verdict should go.

Assistant State Attorney Felix Vega told jurors that Dreydoppel should not have been driving his old Nissan pickup through the streets of the Alafia Riverwoods Mobile Home Park on Feb. 7, 2007. He had marijuana and prescription drugs in his bloodstream, an unregistered truck, and hadn't had a valid driver's license in years. He suffers from illnesses that leave him unsteady on his feet and with imperfect vision.

But Maria Pavlidis, one of Dreydoppel's attorneys, said her client wasn't impaired. He wasn't driving recklessly. He traveled at less than 5 mph.

She said the "very unfortunate accident" occurred when Edward Francis Gould III ran into the road after his mother briefly looked away. The impact fractured the child's skull, and he died outside the rental home his family was being evicted from that same day.

In recorded conversations, Dreydoppel told Hillsborough sheriff's deputies that he always drove through the mobile home park with caution. Neighbors attested to his claim.

"I'm a stickler about that," he said. "You've got to keep your eyes on those kids all the time."

Deputies didn't smell alcohol on his breath, and tests revealed none in his blood.

He was able to speak the alphabet. He made only one mistake in six or seven runs through the finger-to-nose sobriety test.

He was too unsteady to perform all the field sobriety tests, they testified, but they couldn't really say if that was from intoxication or his ailments. He seemed slow to respond, maybe a little confused. His shoes were on the wrong feet.

Blood tests revealed marijuana in Dreydoppel's system, plus levels of Xanax that a forensic toxicologist described as significant and therapeutic.

That mix typically causes drowsiness, said Florida Department of Law Enforcement analyst Dale Livingston.

"A person can be taking a legal amount," he said, "and be impaired by it."

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at or (813) 226-3337.

Was reckless child or driver at fault in fatal Tampa accident? 01/21/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 22, 2009 12:10am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. NATO rolls out the red carpet, buffs its image for Trump


    BRUSSELS — NATO is not only rolling out the red carpet for U.S. President Donald Trump in Brussels Thursday, the military alliance — which Trump once declared obsolete — has been busy repackaging its image and is ready to unveil a new headquarters worth more than 1 billion euros.

  2. Taiwan becomes first in Asia to recognize same-sex marriage


    TAIPEI, Taiwan — In a first for Asia, Taiwan's Constitutional Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage on Wednesday, punctuating a yearslong campaign by advocates for gay rights in one of the continent's most liberal democracies.

    Same-sex marriage supporters wave rainbow Taiwan flags after the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. Taiwan's Constitutional Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage on Wednesday, making the island the first place in Asia to recognize gay unions. [Associated Press]
  3. 'Top Gun' sequel? Tom Cruise says it starts filming soon


    Tom Cruise is once again feeling the need for speed.

    Tom Cruise starred in "Top Gun" in 1986, and said he'll begin work on a sequel within the next year.
  4. Trump presents Pope Francis with sculpture made by Florida artist


    An artist from Stuart, Florida, made a bronze sculpture that President Trump presented today to Pope Francis.

  5. What could have been the game-winning blast turned into a long single for Colby Rasmus.