Sunday, May 20, 2018
Public safety

Man, woman in fatal hit-and-run in St. Petersburg identified

ST. PETERSBURG — Their walks began most nights near dusk, hand-in-hand, on the north end of Coffee Pot Boulevard.

They strolled down the sidewalks, along the water and through the parks. When they reached the pier, they turned and came back. They reminisced in those moments about the countries they had seen, dozens of them, and imagined the places they would visit someday soon.

Gloria Mastell and Roger Wurr fell in love two decades ago, and this routine began soon after.

Around sunset on Friday, authorities say, a drunken 21-year-old named Timothy Michael Deacon was driving a black 2006 Ford F-250 pickup truck south on Coffee Pot. As he approached a bend in the road, he lost control, then overcorrected. The pickup hopped the curb and crushed a utility box. The tires tore grass from its roots. The three tons of metal didn't stop.

At that moment, Mastell and Wurr were on one of their walks. The pickup, police say, slammed into them with such force that she was launched into the water. Wurr, who is 71, was taken to Bayfront Medical Center with severe injuries. Mastell died at the scene. She was 67.

The pickup, according to authorities, sped away. But someone spotted the tag number. A half-dozen St. Petersburg police cruisers soon surrounded Deacon's home at 4476 Cobia Drive SE. As police examined his Ford, neighbors say, he sat on the ground. He smelled of booze, a report said. His eyes were bloodshot, his speech slurred. His expression was blank.

Deacon has been charged with DUI manslaughter, DUI with serious bodily injury and leaving the scene of a crash involving death. He was also cited for careless driving and driving with an expired license. He had never before been arrested.

On Saturday, no one answered the door at his house or his mother's.

Teresa Lacy, Deacon's neighbor, has known him since he was a boy. He wasn't a troublemaker, she said, or someone who partied often. He was polite and friendly, always smiling.

She believed that he and his roommate had a fishing business. A 16-foot Carolina Skiff was parked in his front yard. Another, with a deep hull and a high tower, sat behind a fence. His Facebook page is covered in fishing photos. The "About Tim" section has just three words: "Fishing Is Life."

"Good kid," Lacy said. "Bad decision."

Meanwhile on Saturday, in Illinois, Mastell's family planned their flights south.

She grew up in Chicago. As an eighth-grader at Our Lady of the Angels, she barely escaped the infamous 1958 fire that killed 92 children and three nuns.

She was a hippie of the 1960s, said her niece, Kathi Mykytiuk. She protested at the violent 1968 Democratic National Convention.

She came to Florida with her mother in the 1970s and worked for years as a legal secretary in St. Petersburg. In her 20s, she began to travel. She taught English in Brazil and Japan and learned to speak the native language in both countries.

She eventually joined an international group in which people make their homes available to foreign travelers.

Twenty or so years ago, Wurr, who is German, stayed with her. They started dating soon after. The couple argued, often, but never for too long. He was a professor at the University of Kiel, and she admired his intellect. Nearly every night, they talked politics over games of Scrabble.

They also both believed in healthy lifestyles. She was a vegetarian who didn't drink alcohol. Even in her 60s, she frequently swam a mile.

Just last week, she shared health tips with her niece.

"You'll have to let go of me," she said, "at 105."

Mastell and Wurr just cared for each other. They each traversed the Atlantic dozens of times to visit the other's home. They never married, and neither minded time alone, but they could never stay apart for long.

Wurr is expected to live. When friends visited him Saturday, he was conscious but on a ventilator, so he couldn't talk. They gave him a pen and a piece of paper.

He wrote just one word:

"Gloria?"

Times researcher Natalie A. Watson contributed to this report. John Woodrow Cox can be reached at [email protected]

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