Sunday, February 25, 2018
Public safety

Report offers more details on fatal Brooksville hit-and-run

BROOKSVILLE — Trina Harvey's children, their father says, have only begun to grieve.

Last weekend, David Harvey had to inform the 7-year-old boy, David Jr., and 6-year-old girl, Valerie, that their mother wasn't coming home.

"You can't imagine having to look your kids in the eye and tell them something like that," said Harvey, 34. "They're waking up crying."

On Thursday evening, six days after Trina Harvey's death, her family learned that Brooksville police had arrested the man accused of slamming into her with his pickup truck and driving away. Michael J. Thompson, 41, is charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving death, a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

On Friday, police released more details about what Thompson was doing — and how much alcohol he drank — in the hours before he crossed paths with Trina Harvey on Cortez Boulevard.

• • •

The Applebee's bartender recognized Thompson as a regular when he walked into the Brooksville restaurant and sat down at the bar about 10:30 p.m. Jan. 11.

A woman named Christina Easton joined Thompson, who had four vodka drinks and a shot of liquor before cashing out his bar tab at 10:43 p.m., according to an arrest affidavit.

Thompson drove them in his Chevy Silverado to the Sail Inn, a couple of miles south on U.S. 41. According to his bar tab, the two drank a total of seven beers.

"Easton described Thompson's actions that night as 'embarrassing' due to his extreme intoxication," Brooksville police Detective Jeffrey Pasternak wrote in the arrest affidavit.

A bartender at the Sail Inn told investigators that Thompson appeared to be very intoxicated, as if he had mixed pills with the alcohol.

Thompson drove Easton back to her vehicle at Applebee's between 2:15 and 2:30 a.m. Saturday. Easton pulled out of the parking lot and headed east on Cortez Boulevard with Thompson behind her. She told detectives she soon lost sight of his truck and assumed he made a U-turn to head west on Cortez.

About 15 minutes earlier, Applebee's employee Kimberly Gilbert clocked out and headed toward home. While driving west on Cortez, she saw a woman walking in the median near the post office.

The woman, Gilbert later told detectives, appeared unsteady on her feet.

• • •

Earlier that night, David and Trina Harvey and the two children had attended a gathering at a home on Soult Road. Married for 11 years, the couple separated last year but were still friends, and they shared custody of the children, said David, a roofer.

Shortly before 11 p.m., two teens jumped David Harvey, punching him in the head and kicking him when he fell to the ground, Police Chief George Turner said. When Trina tried to intervene, the teens punched her and then fled. She called 911.

The Hernando Sheriff's Office report on the incident was not available Friday because the case remains open, a spokeswoman said. Turner said records show that people at the gathering were drinking alcohol.

Paramedics took David Harvey to Brooksville Regional Hospital, where he was treated and released. Trina and the children got a ride to her mother's house in the Hidden Valley RV and Mobile Home Park near the intersection of Cortez Boulevard and Jefferson Street, on the east side of Brooksville, Turner said.

About 2 a.m., Trina Harvey started walking to her husband's house off Cobb Road to check on him. As she made her way west, investigators say, Thompson hit her, leaving behind pieces of the Silverado's headlight assembly.

Harvey would lie in the median for more than two hours before she was discovered after 5 a.m. Toxicology results are pending.

Not long after the collision, investigators say, Thompson struck a utility pole along Knuckey Road in northwest Hernando County, got out of the heavily damaged truck and fled the short distance to his home on Leisure Lane.

Brooksville investigators scanning dispatch reports noticed that the description of the truck in the second wreck matched the vehicle they were looking for, based on parts found at the scene of Harvey's death. Detectives confirmed that the parts they had matched the truck registered to Thompson.

In an interview with investigators on Monday, Thompson confirmed he was at Applebee's and said he might have had a beer. He admitted he was driving the truck when it crashed along Knuckey, but claimed he didn't remember anything else.

"Without a doubt, he was being less than honest in initial interviews," Turner said. "When different facts were brought to his attention, his story changed."

• • •

Armed with a probable cause warrant, Pasternak, fellow Brooksville Detective Allan Whitacre and a sheriff's deputy headed Thursday to Thompson's house. Thompson refused to stop talking on a cellphone and struggled when the deputy tried to handcuff him, prompting the Sheriff's Office to charge him with resisting arrest, a report shows.

Brooksville police requested that bail be set at $80,000 because they consider Thompson a flight risk.

David Harvey, who will accompany the kids to Trina Harvey's funeral in Eustis on Sunday, said the charges surprised him.

"It ought to be manslaughter or murder," he said. "He should have at least called somebody. She might have been alive."

Still, he said Friday morning, "I'm glad he's off the streets."

The evidence indicates Thompson was intoxicated at the time of the crash, but it would be hard for prosecutors to prove that, Turner said. The chief noted that leaving the scene of an accident involving death is a more serious charge than DUI manslaughter, which is a second-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Thompson was convicted of driving under the influence in Virginia in March 2011, Turner said. Florida records show he was arrested last September in Plantation on a charge of disorderly conduct. The charge was dropped the following month.

The arrest report shows Thompson listed his job as an installer for AVI-SPL, a Tampa company that provides visual communication technology for businesses. A company spokeswoman said Friday that he did some work for the company through a temporary employment agency.

On Friday afternoon, records show, Thompson was released after posting reduced bail of $25,000. A message left by the Times at the number listed on the arrest report was not returned.

There were two conditions of his bail: No driving and no alcohol.

News researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Tony Marrero can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431. On Twitter: @TMarreroTimes and @HernandoTimes.

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