BROOKSVILLE — Inside the speeding car, the two teens knew they had hit someone walking along the dark country road. Fearing the worst, they agreed to go home Thursday night and keep their terrible secret to themselves, authorities said.
Andrew Jacob Altringer dropped Kyle Case at his home and took off, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. An hour later, about 40 miles north on U.S. 19, he killed himself with a rifle as deputies approached his car, ending a promising life at the age of 18.
No one knows what was in Altringer's mind at that moment. But if the crash played a role, he gave himself the death penalty for an offense that prosecutors said Monday might not have gotten him any jail time.
"In our scheme of things, it's not that serious," Assistant State Attorney Don Barbee said. "But it's unfortunate for him that he went that route."
Leaving the scene of an accident with injuries is a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum of five years in prison. But given the details of the case — notably the moderate injuries to the victim — and Altringer's clean record, he most likely would have had adjudication withheld and received probation, Barbee said.
A senior at Central High School, Altringer was an honor student, secretary of the Distributive Education Clubs of America program and member of the school's Naval Junior ROTC program. He also was a member of the Florida Army National Guard Military Police 690th Unit.
On Monday, authorities were piecing together the case and investigating whether alcohol played a role in the hit-and-run around 10 p.m. on Meinert Avenue in northwest Hernando County.
The crash sent the victim, Alicia Anderson, 22, to a Tampa hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. She was recovering Monday at her father's home on Convent Garden Road, a short distance from where she was sent sprawling by Altringer's 2008 Mazda.
"Her whole body is bruised," said her father, Marc Anderson.
Case, 17, told the Florida Highway Patrol that Altringer was "speeding excessively" when he struck Anderson on the dark, unpaved road.
"I would say it's more than fair to say there's a possibility of alcohol being involved,'' said Sgt. Steve Gaskins of the FHP. "We're definitely checking that out."
Gaskins said the FHP was also considering a traffic citation for Case, who was not in the car when Levy County deputies stopped Altringer for speeding on U.S. 19 just over the Citrus/Levy county line.
Case, who lives on Ester Drive, a short distance from the accident scene, could not be reached for comment Monday.
A few blocks away at Altringer's home on Mirage Avenue, a man who said he was the teen's uncle declined to talk with a reporter other than to say, "It's tough around here, man." The family, including Altringer's four siblings, has scheduled funeral services for 2 p.m. today at Glen Lakes Country Club.
Alicia Anderson and her 22-month-old son, Angel, are visiting from the Boston area for Marc Anderson's birthday, her father said. She has little memory of what happened that night as she took a walk, he said.
The car hit her left side, he said. She was flipped over the car and dragged for a few feet, waking up in a daze on the side of the road. Bloodied, she managed to crawl to the home of a neighbor, who called her father. She didn't wake up again until she was at Tampa General Hospital.
She was released from the hospital Friday evening and was getting along Monday with the help of crutches, her father said. Her left leg was swollen and she was suffering from headaches. She has an appointment with a neurologist to make sure there isn't any lasting head trauma.
But what hurts her most, her father said, was hearing that Altringer had taken his own life. The Anderson family was struggling with that news, particularly two sons who went to school with Altringer.
"I'm sure he was a good kid and I wish that on no one," Anderson said while his daughter slept in another room.
"I wish nobody had hurt themselves. That's what's killing my daughter the most."
Times reporter John Frank and researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Joel Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 754-6120.