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Car crashes into couple's house in Holiday; Tarpon Springs man arrested

HOLIDAY — A loud crash shook Bonnie Conlin, 78, awake at 2:30 a.m. Friday. She rushed out of bed and into the living room, which was lit up by a Pontiac's headlights.

The car had smashed through the house. It destroyed brick-covered concrete blocks at the garage, shattered the front window and splintered two white rocking chairs on the front porch. The car ripped apart a couch and crushed a glass coffee table and pushed the armchair where Mrs. Conlin had slept just a night earlier.

She took a quick look at the damage and ran back to the bedroom.

"You're going to have to get up," she told her husband, Earnest. He's 81 and sleeps with an oxygen tank. His hearing is poor, and he slept through the crash.

"We've got company sitting in our living room,'' Bonnie told Earnest, "car and all."

She heard screaming and crying coming from the car and asked whether anyone was hurt. Then she noticed the front right car door open. The driver had fled.

Conlin went to the phone to call 911, but there was no dial tone. The living room phone was off the hook and buried in the rubble. So was her cell phone.

Fortunately, a Pasco County sheriff's deputy had been in pursuit. He pulled up within minutes to apprehend and arrest the driver, identified as Levar Darcy Murray, 22, of Tarpon Springs. He was charged with fleeing an officer at high speed and leaving the scene of an accident.

The two unidentified passengers, a 23-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman, were flown to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg about 3:45 a.m. They were treated and released.

This was Murray's 20th arrest. His first was in 1998, when he was accused of possessing drugs and a weapon on school grounds as a juvenile. He pleaded guilty to selling drugs in 2005 and was convicted of driving without a valid license in 2006.

Just last week, Murray was charged in Pasco with possessing cocaine, driving with a suspended or revoked license and fleeing an officer. He was released on $9,250 bail.

When Mrs. Conlin learned of Murray's history, she said, "There's no justice."

The Conlins retired in Holt, Mich., and moved into the small house on Holiday Lake Drive in 1986. After the police left Friday morning, they sat in the squeaky rocking chairs waiting for the sun to come up. The air-conditioning still worked, but it was less effective with the gaping hole in the front of the house.

A close family friend, Carrol Ann Simons, 64, came over to help them.

"I think they were looking for the drive-through," Simons joked. More likely, based on the skid marks and tracks across the Conlins' lawn, the car missed the turn for Chelsea Lane.

Simons said she would keep an eye on the house until it is boarded up.

Mrs. Conlin said she doesn't know what the couple will do with their belongings or how they will pay for the repairs. They don't have insurance.

"We'll dig into our reserves, I guess," she said.

Their car, which was in the garage and damaged by the caved-in wall, does have insurance, with a $1,000 deductible. They can't open the garage door to get it out.

Until the home is repaired, the Conlins will stay with friends in Holiday.

Isaac Arnsdorf can be reached at iarnsdorf@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6232.

Car crashes into couple's house in Holiday; Tarpon Springs man arrested 06/05/09 [Last modified: Friday, June 5, 2009 9:01pm]
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