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Authorities say speeding motorcyclist killed pedestrian in Hernando County

SPRING HILL — A Spring Hill motorcyclist with three DUI charges on his driving record hit and killed a female pedestrian Thursday morning when he sped through a red light on Spring Hill Drive, authorities say.

Investigators had not been able to identify the woman as of Thursday evening. They said she was carrying no identification and that no family members had come forward. They asked the public for assistance. The woman was the 34th pedestrian killed this year in the Tampa Bay area.

The woman, whom authorities described as elderly, had been walking south in a crosswalk on Spring Hill Drive, near the Suncoast Crossing shopping center, about 10:15 a.m. when, investigators said, she stepped into the path of the westbound motorcyclist, who witnesses say was driving much faster than the 40 mph speed limit. She died at the scene.

The motorcyclist was identified as James Paul Conaty, 30, of Spring Hill. He sustained serious injuries and was flown to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. Conaty, who was wearing a helmet, was riding a 2007 Suzuki motorcycle, according to Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Steve Gaskins.

Authorities will wait for results from Conaty's toxicology report before filing any charges, Gaskins said.

Conaty has a lengthy history of traffic violations, records show, including three charges of driving under the influence — one with an injury and two with serious bodily injuries to others.

In the most serious case, in Tampa in 1999, Conaty served 2 1/2 years in prison and was order to pay $510,500 in restitution for a DUI with serious bodily injury. His blood-alcohol content was .205, more than double the level at which authorities consider someone to be under the influence. He was 18 at the time.

In Hernando County, Conaty has multiple traffic tickets for speeding and careless driving and one count of fleeing a law enforcement officer. He had been given until Aug. 8 to complete driving school for a charge of passing in a no-passing zone. His license has been suspended in the past but was valid at the time of Thursday's accident.

Conaty also has a lengthy criminal record. He has been arrested 20 times in Florida and has been convicted of burglary, battery and threatening a witness.

Rebecca Torres of Spring Hill was one of the witnesses to Thursday's fatality who said Conaty was speeding.

"He was not going the speed limit at all," said Torres. "I saw her, and then I didn't see her. It was like a second."

Terry Jacobson of Wesley Chapel, who was cutting the lawn in front of a McDonald's restaurant near the intersection, described the crash scene as gruesome.

"That," he said, "was one of the worst things I've ever seen in my life."

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Melvin Backman can be reached at mbackman@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.

To help

The Florida Highway Patrol is seeking help to identify the woman killed Thursday on Spring Hill Drive. Anyone with information is asked to call (813) 631-4020.

Authorities say speeding motorcyclist killed pedestrian in Hernando County 07/28/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 29, 2011 10:39am]
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