Second death from street racing on Sligh could bring added homicide charge

Published January 25
Updated January 25

TAMPA — Bill Swartz died last month when a pickup truck slammed into his Toyota while racing another truck along Sligh Avenue, police said.

Now Swartz’s wife, who was driving, is gone, too.

Jane Swartz died Saturday after spending more than six weeks in the hospital. She was 58.

Authorities say her death could mean a second vehicular homicide charge for Joseph Obregon, driver of a Dodge Ram that was racing on Sligh Avenue near Florida Avenue just before the Dec. 5 crash, police said.

Obregon, 31, was arrested at the scene and charged with one count of vehicular homicide, reckless driving and racing on the highway. He spent a night in jail and was released after posting $11,000 bail.

The Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office has been notified of Jane Swartz’s death and will make a decision about amending Obregon’s charges, Tampa police spokesman Eddy Durkin said. A spokeswoman for the State Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Meanwhile, investigators continue to search for the driver of the pickup that Obregon was racing that day, police said. Surveillance video released Dec. 22 shows the two trucks racing, police said.

"We still hope a member of the community will recognize the vehicle and call in with a tip," Durkin said.

The first part of the 40-second video, taken from nearby surveillance cameras, shows two trucks pull up to the traffic signal at Sligh and Florida. About 15 seconds later, the light turns green and the trucks race away, headed west on Sligh.

A second portion of the video shows the trucks on another section of Sligh.

Seconds later, at about
10:40 a.m., the silver Dodge Ram farthest from the camera crashes into the Swartzes’ Toyota RAV4 at Highland Avenue. Jane Swartz had just started to pull across Sligh to reach the couple’s home on Highland when the Dodge slammed into the passenger side where Bill Swartz was sitting. The force of the crash pushed the SUV into a utility pole.

Bill Swartz, a 78-year-old Marine Corps veteran, died at the scene. His wife was taken to a hospital in critical condition.

The driver of the white truck closest to the cameras in the video did not stop.

Police say witnesses estimated the trucks were going twice the posted 35 mph speed limit just before the crash. At least one witness said the Toyota would have had plenty of time to cross Sligh if the truck driven by Obregon hadn’t been speeding.

An attorney listed for Obregon in court records did not respond to a message Thursday.

Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.