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After chase kills motorist, charges multiply for St. Petersburg woman accused in drug deal

ST. PETERSBURG — She was supposed to be driving her 5-year-old nephew home Wednesday night. If she had, Richard Trompke would still be alive.

Instead, Stacy Lynn Naples took her nephew to a drug deal, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, then led deputies on a chase that hit speeds of 80 mph as she raced down 34th Street. Then she headed downtown, deputies said, ran a stop sign and slammed into Trompke's car, killing him and injuring his passenger.

Naples, the working mother of three young daughters, now faces vehicular homicide and child abuse charges.

The 28-year-old St. Petersburg woman shouldn't have even been behind the wheel. She has a history of traffic violations and hasn't had a valid driver's licence for a decade, records show.

Wednesday's fatal crash was the second time in 10 months that a St. Petersburg resident was killed in a high-speed police pursuit by an outside agency that started beyond the city limits.

Gary Lane Smith, 56, was killed in September when his car was struck by a stolen vehicle fleeing from a Manatee County deputy, police said. That chase started in Bradenton.

Pinellas sheriff's officials said Wednesday's chase appears to have been justified under their policy, because when Naples first drove off, they said, a deputy had to jump out of her way.

Deputies can pursue an "imminent threat" to the public if road and traffic conditions allow it.

"The chase was initiated when a deputy observed another deputy's life to be endangered," said sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha.

The crash is under investigation. So, too, are the deputies involved in the pursuit.

• • •

Wednesday night, Naples was babysitting her nephew, Isaiah Thomas Jr. She was supposed to drive the child back to his mother, Christine Rivera, 24.

Both sisters live in St. Petersburg. But deputies said Naples instead drove the child to Lealman. She parked a gray 2000 Infiniti in a closed car dealership at 34th Street and 47th Avenue N.

Then they saw Michelle Cruz, 41, get into the backseat. Isaiah sat up front, without a restraint. Cruz later told deputies she was there to buy marijuana from Naples.

A deputy approached on foot but leaped out of the way when she drove off, the agency said. Another deputy pursued Naples in an unmarked cruiser, lights and sirens blaring.

The deputy in pursuit said he saw Cruz waving her arms out the window for help. Cruz told deputies that she begged Naples to stop and let her out.

Cruz said Naples swore that she would not go back to jail. Records show that in 2006 she was sentenced to 60 days in the Pinellas jail for a felony driver's license violation.

Deputies said Naples drove between 40 and 80 mph as she sped south on 34th Street, turned east onto Central Avenue, then north on 11th Street N.

About 11:30 p.m. Naples struck the driver's side of the victim's silver 2001 Kia Optima. Both vehicles came to rest at 1101 First Ave. N., deputies said.

Firefighters had to cut Trompke, 50, out of the car. He was later pronounced dead at Bayfront Medical Center. His passenger, Tara Lynn Griffith, 34, was treated there and later released. She was the only one in the crash who was wearing a seatbelt.

No one in Naples' car was injured. Deputies said they found 3.9 grams of crack cocaine and 1.7 grams of marijuana inside.

The deputy pursuing Naples saw the crash from a distance, Pasha said. A supervisor monitored the chase by radio, as per policy.

• • •

Christina Rivera rushed to the crash scene early Thursday morning looking for her son. She was relieved to find him safe in the back of a sheriff's cruiser.

"I thought she was bringing my son home," said Rivera, 24, as her voice trembled Thursday.

Naples called her sister from the jail to apologize.

" 'You killed someone. You could have killed my son,' " Rivera said she told her sister. "She was crying so hard.

"She was saying that she was sorry, that she didn't mean to."

Naples was arrested and faces nine charges, including aggravated assault with a motor vehicle and false imprisonment. She was freed from jail on Thursday after posting $80,000 bond.

Trompke's family declined to comment. One of Griffith's employees said she also did not want to comment.

Naples' family said she works at Big Lots, has three girls ages 6, 7 and 9 and has been in a stable relationship for more than a decade.

Stepfather Reynaldo Colon, 50, said Naples drove without a license so she could support her kids. But the family was shocked to learn of the drug allegations.

Colon said his stepdaughter has had bad experiences with the police. She may have been scared, he said, but she should not have fled.

"I'm mad (at her) and I feel sorry for her," he said. "But man, she's not a bad girl. She's a really good mom, and I don't know what the hell got into her."

Rivera cried after learning that Trompke had died.

"My God, I don't even know what I could say to (his family)," she said. "I know they probably hate my sister, but I just would want to say we're so sorry. She's sorry. We never thought she'd be one to take a life."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds and staff writers Luis Perez and Aubrey Whelan contributed to this report.

After chase kills motorist, charges multiply for St. Petersburg woman accused in drug deal 07/14/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 14, 2011 11:16pm]
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