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Suspect arrested in Pasco shooting of man and his 11-year-old daughter

ZEPHYRHILLS — Authorities have arrested the suspect in a shooting last week that injured a man and his 11-year-old daughter.

Donnie Lee Wheeler, 44, was arrested about 7:40 p.m. Wednesday at his girlfriend's mother's house on Alice Drive. He faces two charges of attempted murder as well as methamphetamine charges.

Wheeler and his girlfriend, Melissa Spencer, lived in a home at 8601 Old Lakeland Highway and were involved in manufacturing methamphetamine, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said.

When a truck arrived at 4 a.m. Aug. 12, authorities said, Wheeler opened fire on the people outside his home.

One bullet fragmented on the truck and hit Kenneth Criger, 44, in four places in his back. His daughter, Sarah, was shot in the jaw.

Criger's lawyer, Dominic Fariello, said Criger and Sarah are both out of the hospital and recovering. Sarah had more than 30 stitches on her face.

Fariello said Criger and his daughter had a good reason for being out that late: They had been injured the previous evening in a car crash, and after being released from the hospital around midnight, they dropped off some prescriptions at a 24-hour pharmacy. They returned to the pharmacy a few hours later to pick up their medicines, Fariello said.

A friend needed a ride, Fariello said, so Criger agreed to give her a lift. When Criger dropped her off, one of the woman's friends asked for a ride, too. Criger didn't know the man, but agreed to give him a ride because he was a friend of a friend, Fariello said.

That's what brought Criger and his daughter to the home on Old Lakeland Highway where they were shot.

Authorities are not releasing the names of either passenger because they are considered witnesses.

Hours after the shooting, deputies searched the home on Old Lakeland Highway and found all the materials needed to make methamphetamine, including lithium batteries and Drano, along with methamphetamine in several coffee filters, according to a Pasco County Sheriff's Office report.

Wheeler and Spencer fled after the shooting. Deputies on Monday identified Wheeler as a suspect and said Spencer was wanted for questioning about the incident, as well as on drug charges.

The couple was booked Wednesday at the Land O'Lakes jail. Wheeler remained there Thursday in lieu of $220,000 bail. Spencer, 30, who was charged with manufacturing and possessing methamphetamine, was held with bail set at $10,000.

Suspect arrested in Pasco shooting of man and his 11-year-old daughter 08/18/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 18, 2011 8:40pm]
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