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Teens fleeing cops smash car into Tarpon Springs hair salon


The phone rang early Monday and Catherine Koursiotis felt 30 years of hairdressing quite literally crumbling at her feet.

"Cath, man, I've got some bad news for you," said the friend on the telephone. "Car went through your building."

Two teenagers, trying to escape a traffic stop by police, crashed into the building and were later arrested.

As Koursiotis' life intersected with the boys' and her business collided with the front-end of a decade-old Mustang, she came to realize the challenges awaiting her.

"Bankruptcy is around the corner," she said.

Koursiotis, 48, can't afford the hospital bills from a recent cardiac catheterization, or her mortgage, or the repairs for the business' 10-foot hole. Hairdressing is what she knows. But CK & Company Hair Designs, 1201 N Pinellas Ave., has sagged in the economic meltdown.

But she vowed to go on. "I'll go cut hair outside if I have to," she said.

• • •

It started just after midnight Sunday when police attempted to pull over Christopher J. Rivera, 17, and Santos Hernandez Jr., 16, on a routine traffic stop. Instead, police said, the teens sped off.

They zipped along Meres Boulevard and hung a left on Pinellas Avenue, according to police. After crossing the Anclote River near downtown, police say Rivera lost control of the red 1998 Ford Mustang and slammed through the salon's cinder block walls.

They skipped from the vehicle and fled on foot.

Contents from a string of burglaries filled the backseat, police said. Electronics, coins and cash are among the items the boys are accused of stealing.

Police dogs and a Sheriff's Office helicopter tracked the boys down by 2 a.m. Monday.

Each face charges of vehicular burglary and resisting officers without violence. Rivera also faces a host of traffic violations.

Police took both teens to Helen Ellis Hospital with minor injuries. They were being held Monday evening at the Pinellas County Juvenile Detention Center.

Later Monday, Kasandra Mercedes Von-Esh, 21, the owner of the Mustang, was arrested by sheriff's deputies on charges of armed vehicle burglary and grand theft of a firearm. Deputies say she drove Hernandez to burglarize cars July 15. Hernandez also faces a charge of grand theft firearm and armed vehicle burglary in that case.

Deputies say Von-Esh wasn't in the car with Rivera and Hernandez during the crash Monday. She was taken to the Pinellas County Jail.

• • •

Catherine Koursiotis has been staying at the Quality Inn because her air conditioner broke recently.

About noon Monday, she was at the shop, wondering what to do next.

Her dark hair, normally down and with lively curls, was tucked beneath a black Paul Mitchell flat cap. Her walk was more of a shuffle.

A customer approached the front door. "Go away, go away," Koursiotis whispered to herself.

Her 23-year-old daughter, Antonia, was across the room, sweeping up dust from the shattered cinder blocks.

A piece of plywood will cover the hole.

She had rushed to the shop as Tarpon Springs police and Pinellas deputies searched for the teens.

Her voice sounded tired Monday afternoon as she spoke of the future.

The Quality Inn isn't home. But for Koursiotis, admittedly down on her luck, a cool place to lay her head is for today just what the doctor ordered.

"I've got to go lay down," she said. "I'm supposed to be resting."

Brian Spegele can be reached at or (727) 445-4154.

Teens fleeing cops smash car into Tarpon Springs hair salon 07/20/09 [Last modified: Monday, July 20, 2009 9:02pm]
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