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Sen. Nelson asks Gov. Crist to reopen 1998 fatal hit-run case

TAMPA — Sen. Bill Nelson is asking Florida's governor to reopen an 11-year-old cold case involving the highway death of Kevin McGinley.

"At this point, only you have the authority to settle any lingering questions regarding this tragic case by ordering an independent third-party review," Nelson wrote Gov. Charlie Crist on Wednesday.

The letter was a welcome one for Kevin's parents, Hugh and Jill McGinley. "That's wonderful, that really is wonderful," said Hugh McGinley. "Let's hope that Charlie Crist pays attention."

Crist spokesman Sterling Ivey said the governor's office is reviewing the request and has no comment.

For 11 years, the McGinleys have pleaded with government agencies to reopen the Florida Highway Patrol's investigation into how their 21-year-old son died on Interstate 275 in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 13, 1998. They contend the initial investigation was botched. At each turn, the McGinleys have been met either with silence or rejection, a cold trail that left them fearful they would never know the circumstances surrounding their son's death.

The McGinleys, who live in Indian Shores, believe that someone pushed their son into the path of a truck near the Howard-Armenia on-ramp. The British immigrants have spent more than $500,000 collecting and analyzing evidence that contradicts the initial Highway Patrol finding that Kevin already was in the road when he died in a hit-and-run crash.

More than a year ago, the St. Petersburg Times published a special report about the investigation, exposing missteps, contradictory testimony, tainted evidence and promising leads that were ignored. Two months after the story, the Highway Patrol decided to conduct its own investigation into the conduct of the troopers who worked the case.

That report was released in March and concluded that, while major mistakes were made in the first investigation, these errors didn't undermine its accuracy. Hugh McGinley called the follow-up report an "utter disgrace."

McGinley, in contact with Nelson's office for the past two years, said he e-mailed the senator's staff last month. A Nelson aide, Dan McLauglin, said after receiving the e-mail, the staff reviewed available public records on the case and the Times stories.

Those stories raised significant questions and helped convince Nelson that another investigation was necessary.

"For Floridians to have complete confidence in law enforcement, there must be accountability and transparency," Nelson wrote. "In the case of Kevin McGinley, these appear to have been lacking."

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (813) 226-3402 or mvansickler@sptimes.com.

Sen. Nelson asks Gov. Crist to reopen 1998 fatal hit-run case 05/27/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 28, 2009 7:11am]
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