ST. PETE BEACH — Police needed nine days to determine the identities of four teens involved in an early morning crash that has left a 17-year-old in critical condition at Bayfront Medical Center.
They say they still are not sure which of the four was driving the Ford Taurus when it went off Pass-A-Grille Way, cutting down a palm tree and going airborne over a yard on April 25.
That final identification could determine whether one passenger is charged with stealing the vehicle from the mother of another passenger and fleeing the scene of the accident. The ramifications are even greater for that driver if drugs and alcohol are found to have been involved.
St. Pete Beach police Officer Brett Schambach on Monday identified the four as Ronald Wade Linderholm Jr., 16; Shawn Guizzotti, 17; and Michael Cannon and Megan Ault, both 15.
Guizzotti was ejected from the car as it came to rest upside down on 30th Avenue and remains at Bayfront. Cannon was partially ejected and transported in serious condition but has since been released from the hospital. None of the passengers was wearing a seat belt, according to authorities.
Schambach said "speed was definitely a factor," but investigators are still trying to determine if drugs or alcohol was also a factor. A bottle of alcohol found at the scene is being processed for fingerprints, he said, and results could be available in a week. After police left the scene, a passerby, Mary Wolfe, found a marijuana pipe that has also been submitted for fingerprints.
"We're not even 100 percent sure it had to do with the accident, but we're testing it," Schambach said.
Despite finding the bottle, Schambach said, police could not order toxicology tests on all four passengers. Police can subpoena blood drawn for medical purposes at Bayfront once a driver is identified, he said.
Rachel Bolinder, 33, the mother of Ault and owner of the car, believes that Linderholm took the car without permission after an argument about 4:30 a.m. April 25 but has not been able to prove the claim to police. Linderholm denies it.
Bolinder claims that after she and the teens spent the evening with strangers at a St. Pete Beach home, she ordered Linderholm from the car as they prepared to return to St. Petersburg because he was "bugging" her to drive. Bolinder said she left the car to use a bathroom, leaving the key in the ignition. She returned, she said, to see the car speeding off.
Bolinder and the strangers began following the teens in another vehicle, she said, winding through St. Pete Beach and eventually ending up near where they started. They arrived at the crash scene soon after the car crashed. Schambach confirmed reports of local witnesses that Linderholm fled the scene. He was later arrested by St. Petersburg Police, Schambach said on "unrelated charges" and is being held in juvenile detention. Schambach said the strangers have yet to be identified because they have not returned to their residence in the vicinity of the Pinellas Maritime Institute across the street from the accident scene.
Bolinder told the Times she considers the car stolen. Schambach said it remains unclear whether Bolinder could be subject to charges.