Friday, July 20, 2018
Public safety

St. Petersburg police detail cab driver's violent death in stabbing attack (w/video)

ST. PETERSBURG — Veteran cab driver John Andrew Hutchens, 59, was dispatched by United Taxi of Clearwater to pick up someone in Lealman around midnight Thursday. It started out like any other fare for Hutchens, 59, who has worked as a local cabbie since 2004.

But St. Petersburg police said this trip ended with passenger Juan Carlos Juares fatally stabbing the cab driver. Hutchens was attacked in his own cab, police said, but when he tried to escape the slashing and stabbing continued outside.

The brutal attack was caught on Hutchens' dashboard camera, police said, which showed how the attack started in the cab and ended outside it.

"It was the most violent crime I've seen in 31 years," said Assistant Police Chief James Previtera at a Friday news conference announcing the arrest.

Police said the 27-year-old Juares attacked the cab driver after failing to come up with enough cash to pay his fare.

Hutchens picked up Juares at a house in the 3200 block of 47th Terrace N in Lealman, according to police. He asked for a ride about a mile away to the Silver Lake mobile home park on 24th street. It was 12:35 a.m.

Previtera said the dash cam video showed Juares getting out of the cab and going into a trailer after failing to pay for his ride. When he came back, he asked to be driven back to the house in Lealman. Hutchens was irritated, the assistant chief said, but Juares gave him $5 and a card that police believe was a credit card.

"As he started driving, Hutchens told Juares he was going to drop him off somewhere the police could find him," Previtera said.

Police believe Hutchens planned to call police to report the missing portion of his fare, so he pulled over at a Citgo gas station on 38th Avenue N and 28th Street. He told Juares to get out. That's when police said Juares opened the door slightly but didn't try to get out of the cab. Hutchens turned on the interior lights, improving the quality of the video footage.

"Without any provocation at all, Juares reached up from the back seat and started to violently stab Mr. Hutchens repeatedly," Previtera said.

Hutchens tried to fend him off, police said, Juares got more violent and continued to slash him with a knife from the backseat. There was no divider separating the front and back seats.

The driver staggered out of the cab and fell to one knee near the gas pumps. He was bleeding profusely, Previtera said. But police said the video showed Juares wasn't finished: he "calmly" walked over to the driver and continued to stab and cut him from behind.

Gas station surveillance video showed cars slowing down as people started to realize what was happening, Previtera said. Juares drove away in the cab, Previtera said, while a bystander tried to staunch Hutchens' bleeding with a piece of clothing.

Paramedics were sent to the scene, but Hutchens was pronounced dead at the gas station.

At 1:18 a.m. United Taxi reported that the taxi registered to Hutchens was stationary in an unusual location. Police used the cab's GPS and found it abandoned at 47th Avenue N and 71st Way — five miles from the gas station.

From there, St. Petersburg officers and Pinellas sheriff's deputies said they used tips and witnesses to find Juares about 9:30 p.m. at a home not far from where they found the cab.

He now faces a charge of first-degree murder for the fatal stabbing and three counts of failing to appear in court for previous arrests.

Records show Juares has been arrested several times for driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license and giving law enforcement a false name.

Police said Juares was arrested without incident. The people he was with didn't know he was on the run, police said, but Jaures shaved his beard to try to change his appearance.

He was initially arrested under the name Jaurez. He declined to speak to detectives and asked for an attorney. He was being held Friday without bail in the Pinellas County jail.

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] Follow @sara_dinatale.

   
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