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Tampa man charged with leaving scene of fatal crash

TAMPA — Police think Manuel Joseph Manna left the scene of a crash that killed a 43-year-old cyclist last week.

Witnesses saw a white sport utility vehicle like his there, court records state, and police said he smelled like alcohol when he pulled into his driveway five hours later.

His SUV appeared freshly washed, and the front end showed damage, they reported.

Authorities initially charged Manna with driving under the influence and then added a charge of leaving the scene of a crash with injury or death. A search warrant affidavit filed in court Wednesday lays out the investigation.

He has not been charged with DUI manslaughter. He made inconsistent statements to police about when he started drinking, the affidavit said.

On Feb. 27, at 7:36 p.m., a sport utility vehicle hit Humberto Saez as he rode a motorized bicycle along the 3100 block of Hillsborough Avenue. The driver fled, police said, and Saez died.

Police found Manna's SUV after a witness gave a description, including a similar tag number. At 8:15 p.m., a 911 caller reported seeing an SUV with Manna's complete tag number run a red light.

Two officers were at Manna's Riverside Heights house when he returned. They reported that his 2006 Chevrolet Trailblazer had front-end damage consistent with hitting a cyclist.

Manna denied that the SUV had just been washed, "even though water was observed still dripping from the exterior," the affidavit states.

He said he was with a woman in a service at Idlewild Baptist Church at the time of the crash. But the woman denied it, the affidavit states. She told police she didn't talk to Manna until about 9:45 p.m. that night, when he called her cell phone.

He was yelling, screaming and acting irrationally, she told police.

Because he seemed impaired and had just driven home, a DUI investigator joined police at the house and arrested Manna on a DUI charge. This is his third time facing that charge, state records show.

Police filed the affidavit for a search warrant so they could get cell phone records for both Manna and the woman.

Times staff writer Stephanie Bolling and news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

Tampa man charged with leaving scene of fatal crash 03/07/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 11:54pm]
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