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Illegal street race blamed for death of mother leaving work

TAMPA — She'd finished her shift at Firehouse Subs, leaving behind the steamer, and the scent of chili, corned beef and smoked turkey, stepping along the border of busy Hillsborough Avenue.

Just like any other day, Wanda Ivette Moulier was doing her part to scrape together money to support her five children. Now, it was time to walk home.

She didn't even make it across the street.

The 40-year-old apparently ambled into the middle of what troopers call an illegal street race on Hillsborough Avenue, and it cost her life.

Troopers have identified the driver of the 2004 Mazda M3 that struck Moulier as Adam T. Robles, 20, of 6037 Catlin Drive, Tampa. They say he was one of a trio of drivers speeding along Hillsborough Avenue at the time of the crash.

Most of her family members were too upset to speak to a reporter Thursday.

They can't understand how such a thing could have happened, said family friend Emanuel Hernandez.

She was just walking home from work. She was just trying to earn a living to help her family survive, he said.

"She didn't care about herself, she didn't care about nothing else," said Hernandez, 27, who spoke on behalf of the family to the St. Petersburg Times.

Moulier of 4729 Stonepointe Place had two daughters and three sons, ages 17 to 25, and two grandchildren. She grew up in the bay area, and didn't have an easy life. She saw a child go off to jail. Two years ago, she was arrested for battery on a law enforcement officer.

But she righted herself and went on, Hernandez said, focusing on her family, the source of her greatest joy.

"She always lived her life making sure that everyone saw she was a happy woman," he said.

And she had much to be happy about. She had two grandchildren to fawn over. She and one of her daughters both held down steady jobs at Firehouse.

It was from there that Moulier was walking when she tried to cross Hillsborough Avenue at Webb Road in Town 'N Country about 8:40 p.m. Wednesday. As she stepped into an inside lane of Hillsborough, the Mazda collided with her, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

When Hillsborough Fire Rescue workers arrived, Moulier was dead.

Two of the vehicles, described only as a black car and a white or gray car, had been racing, said Sgt. Steve Gaskins, an Highway Patrol spokesman. The Mazda was "accelerating to catch up with them when the crash occurred," he said. All of the cars were breaking the speed limit, he said.

Patrol investigators noted in their report, though, that Moulier stepped into the right of way of the Mazda as she tried to cross the road.

The Mazda skidded to a stop after striking Moulier, troopers said. The other two cars disappeared into the night.

Robles suffered minor injuries in the collision. State records list the New York native as someone with a rocky driving history, with five speeding tickets since 2005, including one in March.

He also has been arrested twice in the last year on charges of trespassing and grand theft, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records.

No charges were filed Thursday, but the investigation into the accident is continuing, Gaskins said.

Meanwhile, Moulier's family is in shock. She supported them, financially and in every other way, Hernandez said.

They wonder how they will be able to afford to live without her, he said. And they are daunted by the prospect of funeral costs.

"We don't know what to do," he said.

Hernandez began to cry.

The men who were street racing had no idea how much she meant to them, he said. They couldn't have known.

They were driving so fast, he said, they probably didn't even see her.

Times staff writers Alexandra Zayas and Casey Cora and researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Thomas Kaplan can be reached at (813) 226-3404 or tkaplan@sptimes.com.

>>FAST FACTS

Call with tips

Troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol's traffic homicide unit say they'd like to learn more about the two cars that kept driving after the accident. They ask anyone with information to call Highway Patrol Cpl. Frank Burke at (813) 632-6859 or (813) 631-4020.

Illegal street race blamed for death of mother leaving work 07/31/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 5, 2008 2:07pm]
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