Sunday, February 18, 2018
Public safety

Housekeeper, boyfriend face charges in hit-and-run death of Pinellas Park motel manager

PINELLAS PARK — A 21-year-old motel housekeeper and her 16-year-old boyfriend were charged Sunday in the death of a motel manager who was run over with his own van Saturday night, police said.

Investigators said all three lived at the Budget Inn at 9359 U.S. 19.

Bhupendrakumar Patel, a 49-year-old manager at the motel, was discovered dead about 8 p.m. Saturday. His body was found in the street near 102nd Avenue N and Lake Boulevard, about half a mile north of the motel. He appeared to have been hit by a vehicle and dragged about 30 yards, Pinellas Park police said.

Shortly afterward, about 8:40 p.m., police and firefighters were called to a vehicle fire only a few blocks away, in the parking lot of a vacant business at 10525 U.S. 19, just west of the Quaker Steak and Lube restaurant. An unoccupied blue Toyota van that belonged to Patel was on fire, said Pinellas Park police Sgt. Brian Unmisig.

On Sunday, police questioned and arrested Samantha Brownlee, 21, and Jonathan Pinyard, 16, in connection with Patel's death.

Brownlee and Patel were acquainted through their jobs at the Budget Inn, police said.

Investigators believe the two got in a physical altercation behind a closed business at the southeast corner of 49th Street and 102nd Avenue, near the point where U.S. 19 crosses 49th Street. During the fight, Brownlee struck Patel with the van and fled, leaving Patel fatally injured in the roadway, police said.

Brownlee drove a short distance and left the van in the parking lot at 10525 U.S. 19, police said. A short time later, investigators believe, she returned with her boyfriend, Pinyard, and set the van on fire.

Police would not detail Sunday what the fight had been about, other than to say that it was under investigation.

A man who answered the phone Sunday at the motel declined to comment.

Patel's wallet and a large amount of cash were missing when he was found, said Pinellas Park police Sgt. Tony Motley.

Brownlee faces charges of first-degree murder and arson. Pinyard faces charges as a juvenile with arson and accessory to first-degree murder. Both were being held Sunday at the Pinellas County Jail.

Brownlee, who previously lived in St. Petersburg and Kenneth City, was arrested twice last year, jail records show. She was charged with shoplifting and domestic battery on a person 65 or older, according to the records.

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