Top stories of 2011: Details of chase, fatal crash still emerging

SPRING HILL — Someone who Anita McCain doesn't know placed a cross near the spot on U.S. 19 where her husband died.

At first, she didn't want to see it. It made her sad.

"Now," she said, "I look for it."

Just after 7 a.m. on May 10, Brittany Elizabeth Miles was pulled over in Hudson on suspicion of driving under the influence. According to authorities, this is what happened next: Miles told a deputy she'd had seven drinks. Through an open window, the troubled, drug-addicted 22-year-old escaped from the back of a sheriff's cruiser and nearly killed a Pasco deputy with her erratic driving as she fled. Then, with deputies in pursuit, her pickup barreled through the intersection of U.S. 19 and County Line Road and slammed into Anita's husband, a 66-year-old motorcyclist named Henry F. McCain.

Mr. McCain's body came to rest 157 feet north of the collision. As he died on the road, witnesses say, Miles sped away. About a mile up the road, after her truck became disabled from that crash, Miles hopped out and ran until a deputy tackled her to the ground.

Records recently obtained by the St. Petersburg Times reveal disturbing new details surrounding the incident that morning and confirm something that many had long suspected — that Miles was on drugs at the time of the crash.

A toxicology report indicated that Miles' blood contained oxycodone and alprazolam.

The news didn't shock Anita McCain.

"It makes me angry that someone with that much medication in her would even consider getting behind the wheel," she said. "But I'm not surprised."

• • •

After Miles left the Brass Flamingo, a Port Richey strip club where she worked as a dancer under the stage name of "Liza," at least three people called 911 in the early hours of May 10 to report that she was driving erratically in a red Dodge Ram.

Investigators recently released an interview with one of those callers.

About 7 a.m., Steven Earl Crown left his home in Holiday. He drove down Riddle Road and saw Miles' red Dodge pickup stopped in front of him. He said she spoke to a garbage truck driver for about two minutes before driving on.

Miles eventually turned right onto Grand Boulevard with Crown still behind her. About 20 yards after turning, Miles stopped at a bus stop and talked to some schoolchildren.

Crown waited behind her another two or three minutes before he became impatient and blew his horn at her. Miles, he told authorities, became irate. She flailed her arms, yelled a profanity and flipped him off.

She then took off, heading north on Grand to Mile Stretch Drive, where she turned left. There, she hit the gas.

Seconds later, he told investigators, he saw a child bent over adjusting her shoe at a bus stop on the side of the road. Miles missed running over the little girl by just feet. After that, Crown said, she drove so fast that he lost sight of her.

He caught up to the pickup and recorded its tag number at the intersection of U.S. 19 and Darlington Road. He continued to follow her north. After she veered into and out of traffic and nearly caused three or four accidents, Crown said he called 911. He lost sight of her again around New Port Richey.

Pasco sheriff's Deputy Ashley Grady soon found Miles parked at a stoplight, asleep.

• • •

Grady pulled Miles over on suspicion of DUI. Grady's partner, Deputy Christopher Greifenberger, watched Miles fail at least three field sobriety tests.

When Grady handcuffed Miles behind her back, she noted how thin the suspect's wrists were. As deputies searched Miles' truck, Greifenberger spoke several times to her as she waited in the back of a cruiser. Miles asked whether she would get into trouble for missing a 9 a.m. court appearance. The deputy told her that he had called her mother, Hernando sheriff's Deputy Debra Miles, who said she was on her way to the courthouse to tell the judge that her daughter wasn't coming.

After each conversation, Grady said, she thought she had rolled up the cruiser's rear window.

But Miles somehow freed one hand from the cuffs. She apparently reached through the window to open the door, sprinted to her truck and peeled out as Grady leaped onto the running board and tried to pull the keys out of the ignition. With one hand on the steering wheel and her elbow on Miles' neck, the deputy ordered her to stop. Miles refused, saying again and again that she wasn't going to jail.

Grady said Miles shouted, "I'm not going to jail!" at her as the deputy hung from the driver's side window of the speeding pickup, records show. "I have a court date at 9 for my son, and you're not getting in my vehicle," Miles said, according to Grady. "You're not stopping me."

When the deputy looked at the speedometer, it read between 73 mph and 74 mph. As the truck crossed three lanes of traffic and a median, Grady said, Miles jerked the wheel to sling her off. Grady, who suffered a broken leg, was eventually suspended for five days without pay after internal affairs investigators determined she violated an agency regulation during the botched DUI stop.

Three days after the incident, Miles tried to explain what had happened in a recorded jail phone call with the father of her young son.

Miles told Oliver Bevins Jr. that she ran because she was scheduled to be in court that morning to discuss a case plan related to their son.

"As far as the deputy, you know, she jumped on the truck, you know what I mean? It's not like I hit her. She fell off. … Like it was her decision to jump on the truck," she said. "She just jumped on the f------ truck while I was f------ driving. I mean, what was I supposed to do?"

A quarter of a mile from U.S. 19 and County Line Road, Miles' truck was tearing north at 100 mph. She slid into the left lane and slowed to 60 mph as she approached the crossroads. Then, suddenly, she saw McCain's motorcycle, records show.

"I tried to swerve around him. I tried to do everything to avoid him, but he just, you know what I mean? We both tried to miss each other, and because we tried to miss each other, we ran into each other," she said. "We made eye contact and everything."

After the crash, Miles veered into some grass, smashed into a street sign and plowed into a culvert, but kept going. With her truck's front two tires blown, she drove a mile north at 15 mph to 25 mph before stopping.

She then hopped out and ran. Greifenberger chased her for several hundred feet before he caught and arrested her.

In her phone conversation with Bevins, Miles said she was going through a painful detoxification in jail. After an automobile accident two years earlier, friends say, Miles had become addicted to prescription pain pills.

Minutes after her arrest, Miles told a paramedic she hadn't taken oxycodone in two days. But she later admitted to a nurse that she had taken two of the pills that morning.

Just after 11 a.m., a deputy overheard Miles tell a nurse at Oak Hill Hospital why she fled.

"I ran for my son, so I wouldn't lose him," she said. "I guess now I lost him anyway."

• • •

After 15 years working for Pasco County, Anita McCain will retire from her job in Pasco's public transportation division at the end of this week.

"It's sort of bittersweet," she said, "because I intended to retire with Henry."

She tries not to think about Miles as much these days. She joined a grief recovery group three or four months ago to help her cope with the loss. That's helped some, but the pain lingers.

Each year, Anita and Henry attended a Christmas Eve service at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Spring Hill.

"It's been pretty difficult getting ready for the holidays without Henry," she said last week. "It won't be the same."

Reach John Woodrow Cox at jcox@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432.

Editor's note: The Hernando Times this week is publishing recaps of the Top 10 stories of 2011 in Hernando County, as identified by the Times staff. They appear in no particular order.

Top stories of 2011: Details of chase, fatal crash still emerging 12/27/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 9:02pm]

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