ST. PETERSBURG — Driving along 22nd Avenue S, Al Spearman got to the corner of 47th Street and looked for his nephew.
Marquice L. Anderson and his friends often stood on the corner in the shade of an oak tree in front of Ferins Food Mart. Spearman spotted him there a few months ago, but he didn't find Anderson on the corner when he passed by on Friday.
By then, police say, Anderson had gone into hiding.
Carrying the weight of a lengthy arrest record with him, the 27-year-old lifelong St. Petersburg resident was still the focus of a manhunt Saturday. He is accused of vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident that killed three young mothers, among other charges.
Police say Anderson was driving the Chrysler sedan that slammed into a Saturn at the corner of 16th Street and Ninth Avenue S early Thursday. The Saturn caught fire, killing Briana Lequinda Campbell, 23, and Jamesia Chera Santoria, 21. Their aunt, 25-year-old Grace Collier, died Friday. The three young mothers leave behind a total of six children.
The U.S. Marshal Service's Fugitive Task Force is helping with the search, said St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz. A cash reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest, but the amount has not been specified.
Spearman has known Anderson since he was a boy but didn't see him regularly. He didn't know his nephew was a wanted man until a reporter contacted him Saturday.
The St. Petersburg man called the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Anderson a "gentle giant."
"I think he was probably tore up and got scared when the car blew up," said Spearman, 55. "He's not a bad kid."
Anderson was born and raised in southern St. Petersburg. His parents didn't stay together but he remained close to both of them, Spearman said.
"He respected his grandmother, he respected his mother, and he respected me," Spearman said.
Respecting the law proved more challenging for Anderson. State records show Anderson's first arrest came in 2003 at age 16. He was charged as an adult with burglary, and the court withheld adjudication.
He pleaded no contest to marijuana possession a few years later. Less than a year after that he was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer, a felony, and convicted of the lesser charge of resisting arrest without violence.
A string of drug arrests followed. In 2010, Anderson was sentenced to 17 months in state prison for possession and sale of cocaine. He served nine months and started a two-year probation term in 2011.
Records show nine more arrests since then on charges that included reckless driving resulting in property damage or injury, driving with a suspended license and possession of crack cocaine and marijuana. In late 2012, Anderson was given two more years of supervised probation.
His most recent arrest came in June of 2013 after he failed to appear in court. He spent three weeks in the Pinellas County Jail.
Anderson also has racked up a stack of traffic tickets and unpaid fines. Last fall, the state deemed him a habitual traffic offender and revoked his license. He did not have a valid license at the time of Thursday's crash.
It's still unclear whose car Anderson is accused of driving that morning. Police said the Chrysler's owner was cooperating with investigators but her identity has not been released.
In describing the suspect, police noted three tattoos on Anderson's arms. The names, apparently, belong to women in his life.
Sylvia is his mother, who according to Spearman still lives in the area but couldn't be reached Saturday.
Gloria, his grandmother, died in 2012.
And Dominique is Anderson's cousin, Al Spearman's daughter, whose 2005 murder made local headlines. Dwauneario Brown, the 20-year-old St. Petersburg College student's boyfriend, received a life sentence for shooting Dominique.
Anderson doesn't have that kind of cold blood running in him, his uncle said.
"But he needs to turn himself in," he said.
Times staff researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Tony Marrero can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.