Friday, December 15, 2017
Public safety

St. Petersburg hit-and-run suspect surrenders at jail

ST. PETERSBURG — Marquice Anderson, wanted in connection with a fiery crash that killed three young women last week, turned himself in Monday at the Pinellas County Jail.

He had worried all weekend, aware he would likely be held without bail and nervous about the "retaliation factor," said Dyril Flanagan, his attorney. "He was worried about who could be a cousin of a cousin and who wants to retaliate."

Anderson and family members met Flanagan in a parking lot near the 49th Street Courthouse about 11 a.m. Then the attorney and the suspect drove to the Pinellas County Jail together. Flanagan had been following news of the horrific crash and the search for the hit-and-run driver, so he was familiar with the case when one of Anderson's relatives called him early that morning.

"It's just a tragedy, Flanagan said. "Everyone's life has changed dramatically because of this."

Anderson, 27, was charged with one count each of vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of an accident involving death, driving with a suspended license involving death and violation of probation. More charges may follow, police said.

He was being held on $170,000 bail.

The women's families were relieved to hear of his arrest.

"We feel better now that justice is served," said Michael Campbell, 20, a cousin.

The family worried Anderson might flee the state, he said, and avoid capture for years.

"We were just wondering, is he really going to not turn himself in? Is he really that cold hearted?"

Police say Anderson was speeding in the wrong lanes of 16th Street about 3 a.m. Thursday in a rented 2012 Chrysler when he plowed into the 2004 Saturn's driver's side rear door and rear wheel. The impact sent the Saturn into a spin, and it became engulfed in flames.

Cousins Briana Lequinda Campbell, 23 and Jamesia Chera Santoria, 21, died at the scene. Their aunt, Grace Collier, 25, died the next day at Tampa General Hospital.

Police on Monday said the car Anderson was driving was rented by the father of his girlfriend, Brittany Donar, 25. Both Anderson and Donar's driver's licenses are suspended.

Court records state Donar allowed Anderson to take the Chrysler about 10 p.m. Wednesday to go to Club 1 South, a downtown club. The women in the Saturn also were at the bar for a girls' night out.

After the 3 a.m. crash, Anderson called Donar to ask her to report the car stolen, which she did, court records state. She later said that she allowed Anderson to use the car, according to the records.

She faces a charge of being an accessory after the fact and was released from jail early Monday on $5,000 bail.

Authorities said Monday that it's not uncommon for rental cars to be involved in crimes.

Often, "it's just criminals trying to distance themselves from the authorities to try to shield their actions and identities," said Assistant State Attorney Richard Ripplinger, a longtime prosecutor.

If someone sees a person committing a crime and getting into a car, police often can trace the vehicle's owner. It is more difficult if the person doesn't own the car.

"Cars are being provided to them by relatives or girlfriends who rented the cars for them," police spokesman Mike Puetz said.

And then there's the phenomenon known as "crack rentals," which may not involve rental companies at all, Ripplinger said. This is when people are so desperate they allow their cars to be used in exchange for drugs.

Ripplinger helped prosecute four men for a 2009 drive-by shooting in St. Petersburg, which resulted in the death of an 8-year-old girl, Paris Whitehead-Hamilton. The killers in that case were in a "buddy car" ­— a car from the neighborhood that did not belong to any of them, but that was available to their group.

The victims' relatives will celebrate the women's short lives at a wake Thursday. A funeral service is planned for Saturday.

"When the funeral comes, we'll have to relive it all over again," Campbell said.

Times staff writer Laura C. Morel contributed to this report. Contact Claire Wiseman at [email protected] or (727) 893-8804. Follow @clairelwiseman.

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