The Houdini act began late Sunday as Amanda Driggers sat in the back of Cpl. Barry Arnew's patrol car.
Arnew sat at a red light at U.S. 41 and State Road 52 for about 30 seconds as Driggers inched toward freedom in the back seat.
First, she pulled a panel on the inside of the back door. She felt a door knob, pushed it out and cracked the door open.
Then, Driggers, 19, slipped the handcuffs off her small wrists and quietly exited the car.
By the time Arnew pulled onto U.S. 41 to head toward the Land O'Lakes Detention Center, Driggers was gone.
"I was thinking, I want to see my kid," a 2-year-old boy who is in the state's custody, Driggers said in a jailhouse interview Monday. "Today was my visitation day."
Driggers' vanishing act — which ended with her capture Monday morning — was the second escape made from a Pasco deputy's patrol car in a week.
On July 19, Richard Zukoski slipped away using his own handcuff key and the kindness of a deputy who agreed to roll down the back window so Zukoski could spit. Zukoski was caught a short time later.
Kevin Doll, sheriff's spokesman, said the two escapes don't warrant a review of the Sheriff's Office's policies on transporting inmates to the jail.
"They are being treated as separate incidents," he said.
Arnew didn't realize Driggers was gone until he reached the Land O'Lakes jail and found an empty set of handcuffs in the backseat. By then, Driggers said, she was hitchhiking her way across the county.
A couple of guys dropped her off at the Flying J truck stop by Interstate 75. She spotted a friend who took her to an aunt's house in Lacoochee. Someone else took Driggers to her boyfriend's house in Dade City. He urged Driggers to turn herself in and dropped her off at a friend's house in Zephyrhills.
"She was asleep and didn't answer," Driggers recalled Monday. "She has two little girls, and I didn't want to wake them up."
So Driggers slipped into a patio chair and took a nap.
When the sun came up, Driggers was awakened by deputies.
"Don't move," she recalled them saying.
Driggers had been staying with a friend at 8544 Semmes St. in Zephyrhills when deputies first picked her up Sunday night on a warrant for violating her probation for a burglary. She was also charged with possession of marijuana, and later charged with escape and giving a false name to a law enforcement officer.
Driggers said she's remorseful about her escape, which has caused the Sheriff's Office to launch an investigation into what happened.
Instead of seeing her son Monday, Driggers sat in jail. This time, her handcuffs were on tight.
Camille C. Spencer can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4609.