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Man jailed after seizure caused 2002 Tampa crash death keeps driving despite 15-year ban

Emilio Santacruz suffered a seizure as he drove on Oct. 18, 2002. His pickup veered onto a sidewalk, lurched across Euclid Avenue and into Bob Hatton Prudential Realty, killing Angie Talty.

John Pendygraft | Times (2002)

Emilio Santacruz suffered a seizure as he drove on Oct. 18, 2002. His pickup veered onto a sidewalk, lurched across Euclid Avenue and into Bob Hatton Prudential Realty, killing Angie Talty.

TAMPA — Emilio Santacruz had a history of seizures.

After he was convicted of vehicular homicide for crashing into a Tampa real estate office, killing 79-year-old Angie Talty, he agreed not to drive.

His 2004 plea deal states: "15 years no driving." He signed his name.

But records obtained by the St. Petersburg Times indicate Santacruz is living in Miami and has a valid driver's license, which he obtained in 2008 by providing a different last name.

He apparently has used the license. In 2009, authorities cited him for speeding in Miami-Dade County. In 2010, he cut off another vehicle, state records show.

Meanwhile, he checked in with his probation officer each month. The Department of Corrections says the officer would have reminded Santacruz not to drive. "We are processing a violation of probation right now," department spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said Friday, a day after the Times asked about the license.

Santacruz was mentioned in a story this week about prosecution of drivers who crash after a history of seizures. On Oct. 21, a Plant High teacher and her husband died when their van was hit by a man police said lost consciousness.

Nine years ago, on Oct. 18, 2002, Santacruz had a seizure as he drove down West Shore Boulevard. His Ford F-150 veered onto the sidewalk and struck an unoccupied van, then careened across Euclid Avenue and into Bob Hatton Prudential Realty. It killed Talty, an agent, on impact.

Because a doctor had told Santacruz he shouldn't drive, authorities charged him with vehicular homicide. He took a plea deal that sentenced him to six months in jail and stipulated the 15-year license suspension.

"His sentence was light enough, and now he's breaking that," a shocked and angered Terri Talty said Friday.

The daughter of Angie Talty was upset to hear that Santacruz had obtained a driver's license under a slightly different name.

If he had used "Emilio Santacruz" — the name in court and state records — licensing officials would have quickly found record of the suspension, said Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle spokeswoman Ann Howard. He would have been denied a license.

What name did he use?

That information is not public record, Howard said.

But when the Times requested a driving record for "Emilio Santacruz," Howard also found one for a man whose name began "Emilio Santa Cruz---" followed by a few more letters. Howard blacked out the new letters in the record provided to the Times but confirmed that he was the same man, born Sept. 19, 1971.

Santacruz could not be reached for comment Friday, and attempts to contact family members were unsuccessful.

Whatever his intent, the longer surname gave him a fresh start.

Terri Talty said her whole family was unsatisfied by the plea deal. It was too light, she said. But at least, they thought, he was off the road.

"Now that he's driving," she said, "it just a matter of time before he kills himself or someone else."

Santacruz's current medical records are not available, so it's unclear if he still suffers seizures. In 2004, a Tampa doctor reported in court that Santacruz had epilepsy and was on prescription medication.

Under the terms of the plea deal, he wasn't supposed to be eligible to apply for a license until 2019.

Realtor Bob Hatton said he hopes the State Attorney's Office gets involved.

"He killed one of my best," Hatton said.

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Man jailed after seizure caused 2002 Tampa crash death keeps driving despite 15-year ban 10/28/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 28, 2011 11:22pm]
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