Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tearful teen who survived stolen SUV crash to be held in juvenile detention

LARGO — Slumped in a wheelchair in a corner of the courtroom, gauze wrapped around his head, wrist and hand, Keondrae Brown bobbed his head and began to cry.

TIMELINE:Three boys died in a stolen vehicle: Here's how it unfolded (w/video)

The only survivor from a stolen car involved in a fiery crash that killed his brother and two friends early Sunday, Keondrae, 14, appeared before a judge for the first time Tuesday on a charge of grand theft auto.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Kathleen Hessinger ordered him held for the maximum 21 days in the Juvenile Detention Center.

The boy's family asked that he be released just long enough for them to handle services for his dead brother.

"Not at this point," Hessinger said.

She read from Keondrae's arrest report, but everyone there already knew the details. A black Ford Explorer, streaking across Tampa Road at more than 100 mph, driven by Keondrae's brother, 16-year-old Keontae. It collided with the sedan of a man driving to work before the SUV flew into the air, smashing cars in a lot on the side of the road, a billboard pole and tumbling across the pavement in flames.

Tuesday afternoon, authorities said, investigators finished analyzing information from the Explorer's crash data recorder. Two-and-a-half seconds before impact, it was travelling 117 mph, according to the sheriff. At impact it was going 112 mph.

VIDEO: Sheriff releases video showing teens reaching 140 mph before fatal Palm Harbor SUV crash

Keondrae was thrown from the backseat through the windshield. When deputies arrived, they said, he was covered in glass, limp near his brother's body. Two other boys, 14-year-old Jimmie Goshey and 16-year-old Dejarae Thomas, were dead inside the mangled Explorer.

Paula Shea, a public defender, bent down in front of Keondrae's wheelchair and dabbed his eyes with tissues.

"He just turned 14 in April," she told the judge. "He's quite injured."

And: "He was with an older sibling that he was following."

Before a bailiff wheeled Keondrae out of the courtroom, Shea leaned toward him one more time. His face was swollen, his eyes dazed. He asked the lawyer to talk to the judge again. Was there any way that he could please get out before his 21 days was up? The judge said not today. The boy rolled his head back and closed his eyes.

Keondrae was released from a hospital Monday and was the last of three survivors to appear in court. On Monday, Deyon Kaigler, 16, and Kamal Campbell, 18, were charged with grand theft auto and resisting an officer. Deputies said they were in a stolen Chrysler Sebring, spotted committing burglaries and driving alongside the Ford Explorer just before the crash. Deyon and Kamal later told deputies they saw the fireball but fled to Clearwater, where they were captured after abandoning the Sebring.

PREVIOUS STORY: Teens in stolen car crash had 126 arrests; murder charges possible

Deyon was also ordered held for the maximum 21 days in the Juvenile Detention Center. Kamal, an adult, was held in the Pinellas County Jail on $25,000 bail.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has called the violent collision just the latest representation of the deadly auto theft epidemic in Pinellas County. The man hit by the Explorer, 29-year-old Ricky Melendez, went home Monday with an arm sling, a walking boot and internal bleeding.

The six teens had racked up 126 arrests between them before the crash. They had gone to the Juvenile Detention Center a combined 43 times.

"The problem is that these kids could have cared less about their crimes," the sheriff said. "They had no concern whatsoever about the juvenile justice system."

Gualtieri said Keondrae told investigators the Explorer reached speeds as high as 140 miles per hour shortly before the crash at the U.S. 19 intersection. Authorities said the SUV ran a red light, and the kids had turned off all its lights.

THE VICTIM: Ricky Melendez recalls horrific crash that killed three in stolen car

The two cars had been stolen Thursday from an auto dealership on Missouri Avenue in Clearwater.

Investigators are now considering felony murder charges against the three surviving teens, Gualtieri said, because they were committing burglaries together just before in the East Lake Woodlands. They fled after hearing a sheriff's helicopter, Gualtieri said, "in one continuous, uninterrupted sequence" before the boys died.

"If you're committing a felony and as a result somebody dies, then you're responsible," Gualtieri said.

Outside attorneys have told the Times authorities may have difficulty proving a murder case. Ultimately, the charges will be decided by the State Attorney's Office.

Keondrae's family declined to comment outside the courtroom.

 

MORE ON THE SUV CRASH

 

VIGIL: Friends, family gather in Clearwater to remember teens who died in SUV crash

EDITORIAL: Another fatal crash, another call to fight car thefts

ROMANO: Before the stolen car you will likely find stolen dreams

THE KIDS: Six teens involved in stolen car crash have troubled histories

5 WAYS: Officials are trying to stop Pinellas teen car thieves

HOT WHEELS: Kids are driving Pinellas County's car-theft epidemic. It's a dangerous — sometimes deadly — game.

This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.

 

Tearful teen who survived stolen SUV crash to be held in juvenile detention 08/08/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 9, 2017 12:43am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Evening update: Tropical Storm Harvey forms in Atlantic, second wave follows

    Hurricanes

    UPDATE: At 8 p.m. the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane hunter plane had determined that Tropical Storm Harvey had formed with sustained winds of 40 mph.

    Three tropical waves are expected to strengthen as they move across the Atlantic Ocean. [Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center]
  2. Trump 'beautiful statues' tweets roil Tampa Bay's own Confederate debate

    National

    It started Thursday at 9:07 a.m., as it does so often these days, with a tweet:

    The Memoria in Aeterna Confederate monument stands in front of the old Hillsborough County Courthouse. Hillsborough County Commissioners voted 4-2 last month to move it to a private cemetery in Brandon before voting again this week to put a deadline on a public sector fundraising campaign to pay part of the cost. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  3. Rays waste repeated opportunities in 5-3 loss to Blue Jays

    The Heater

    TORONTO — Rays manager Kevin Cash made a case for urgency before Thursday's game, in both actions and words, making significant changes to the structure of the lineup and sincere comments about time running short.

    Trevor Plouffe of the Rays reacts as he pops out with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. [Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images]
  4. Spanish PM voices solidarity with Barcelona

    World

    BARCELONA, Spain — Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says his country is mourning in solidarity with the city of Barcelona and other cities in Europe that have been hit by deadly extremist attacks.

    An injured person is treated in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 after a white van jumped the sidewalk in the historic Las Ramblas district, crashing into a summer crowd of residents and tourists and injuring several people, police said. [Associated Press]
  5. Confederate statue: Why Bucs, Lightning, Rays took a stand

    Bucs

    They didn't want another Charlottesville.

    Marc Rodriguez, a member of the "Florida Fight for $15" organization, stands in protest along with other activists demanding the Confederate  monument be removed from the old Hillsborough County Courthouse in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]