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Man accused in fatal Tampa car crashes faces more DUI charges

TAMPA — A day after separate crashes claimed the lives of two women, prosecutors scrambled to keep the accused killer behind bars, saying the deaths were just the finale in his drunken drive of destruction.

Overnight, Randy Archiquette, 39, a man with a history of military service who was known to his Riverview neighbors as a good father and husband, became what prosecutors described as a "threat to the community."

He caused five crashes within 30 minutes, police say, stopping only when his gold Chevrolet Yukon flipped upside down a a block and a half north of the Hillsborough and Florida Avenues intersection.

On Tuesday morning, Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Walter Heinrich at first set $75,000 bail for Archiquette.

But he revoked bail after Hillsborough County prosecutors filed a motion opposing his release, saying Archiquette showed "blatant disregard for the safety of the community," when he got behind the wheel of his SUV with a blood alcohol level of .147 — above the level at which Florida considers a driver impaired.

Prosecutors with the State Attorney's Office expect to argue Friday during a 10 a.m. hearing about why they think he should remain in jail prior to trial.

Betty Williams, 69, and Brittany McFarland, 20, were two strangers traveling in opposite directions Monday when, police say, both had the misfortune of being in Archiquette's path.

At 3:59 p.m., police say, Archiquette crashed into Williams, pushing her northbound 1994 Chevrolet sedan into a telephone pole. He continued north, blowing through the intersection with Hillsborough Avenue, colliding head-on with McFarland, who was southbound on Florida, just blocks from home.

Both were pronounced dead at area hospitals, leaving family members reeling over their sudden deaths.

Police on Tuesday combed through Monday's 911 call records, tracking down witnesses to two other crashes police say Archiquette caused along Adamo Drive, about seven miles away.

At 3:31 p.m., Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said, a 911 caller reported westbound a gold or tan SUV on Adamo Drive had rear-ended a semi-trailer truck at 28th Street.

Then, Davis said, a witness reported seeing the SUV pull into the parking lot at Ikea, 1103 N 22nd St., and turn around on Adamo eastbound.

Four minutes later, at 3:35 p.m., Davis said, another caller reported a second crash at Adamo Drive and 39th Street. This time, she said, a 911 caller gave operators a tag number matching Archiquette's Yukon. Davis said the SUV was eastbound when it sideswiped with a Crown Victoria. No one was injured. Again, the SUV driver simply drove away.

Police aren't sure what path Archiquette took after that.

One witness attempted to trail him for a stretch as he sped down Adamo, Davis said, but lost the suspect car after becoming worried about their own safety.

Though dispatchers issued BOLOS — "be on the lookout" — alerts to police patrolling the area, officers were unable to make contact with Archiquette until after the fatal crashes in Seminole Heights.

On Tuesday, two families grieved for two women.

McFarland, a Chamberlain High graduate with plans to enroll in nursing school this fall, had just dropped off her 7-year-old sister at the Sulphur Springs Pool when the crash happened. Her family has hired attorney Martin J. Hernandez.

Williams was a Jacksonville-born former seamstress with two children, 12 grandchildren and more than 10 great-grandchildren.

She loved gospel music and Sunday television evangelists, said Shirley Stenson, friends with Williams since the 1980s when they worked together at Frayne Fashions, making pants, shorts and skirts. Williams specialized in the zigzag stitch.

"We connected," said Stenson. Williams helped Stenson with her young children and accompanied her on frequent thrift store jaunts. "Sometimes we didn't even buy anything," Stenson said. "Sometimes we'd pay 50 cents for an outfit just to get the buttons off it."

Records showed Williams had one serious brush with the law in 1978. After in a domestic argument with her husband, she was arrested and later convicted of killing him.

Her son, Robert King, Jr., 55, said he was estranged from his mother during that period and didn't know much about the crime. The woman he'd come to know since, he said, was independent, lived alone in a block house for 15 years — but drove on back roads because she didn't like driving on highways.

"She said it was dangerous," King said.

No one came to the door at Archiquette's 2,390-sq. foot Riverview home in Panther Trace Tuesday. One family member reached by phone declined to comment.

Archiquette told booking deputies he works at L3 Communications, which does contract work for the military. Davis said he told detectives he used to be in the military, and his wife is currently with the military.

Neighbor Kimberly Robinson, 43, said she always sees Archiquette playing with his two young daughters in the front yard of what she described as their "perfect" home.

But she never saw him drink — or even detected him tipsy. She said she would know. He's dropped her off at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings before, she said, so she knows the signs.

"Right now, I tell you, I know he's destroyed," Robinson said.

Police painted a different picture.

"When detectives told him he killed two people," Davis said, "he showed no emotion."

Archiquette is charged with two counts of DUI manslaughter, one could of vehicular homicide, one count of vehicular homicide leaving the scene.

Late in the day Tuesday, police also added misdemeanor charges connected with the Adamo Drive crashes: one count of DUI with minor injury, two counts of DUI crash with property damage and two counts of hit and run.

Times news researchers John Martin and Shirl Kennedy and staff writers Colleen Jenkins and Will Van Sant contributed to this report. Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com and (813) 226-3383.

Man accused in fatal Tampa car crashes faces more DUI charges 04/14/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 17, 2009 2:00pm]
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