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Parents say Highway Patrol failed in investigating their son's 1998 death

TAMPA — More than 10 years after their son died on Interstate 275 after a roadside brawl, Hugh and Jill McGinley have taken their anger to court.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in Pinellas County Circuit Court, the McGinleys accuse the state of Florida and Florida Highway Patrol of knowingly failing to properly investigate how their youngest boy died.

They also claim State Attorney Mark Ober ignored evidence that Highway Patrol's investigation was seriously flawed. All three defendants, the lawsuit says, violated the McGinleys' constitutional rights and protections.

Kevin McGinley, 21, died in the early morning hours of Feb. 13, 1998, after a night out with friends in Ybor City.

The Highway Patrol concluded he was hit by a UPS truck after he wandered into traffic following a fight at the side of southbound I-275 near the Howard-Armenia exit.

His parents, however, believe Kevin was intentionally pushed into the path of the truck by another young man. The Indian Shores couple has spent 10 years and more than a half-million dollars collecting evidence to refute the official findings.

"The lawsuit is basically our effort to get them to do what they're required to do by law," Hugh McGinley said "It's also very disheartening and very sad that it's necessary."

In March, the St. Petersburg Times highlighted a number of disparities between the Highway Patrol's investigation into Kevin's death and evidence collected by the McGinleys over the years.

Hugh McGinley said he has shared the same evidence with state agencies, including Gov. Charlie Crist's office, to no avail.

The lawsuit alleges that the Highway Patrol's explanation of the death was inconsistent with evidence and eyewitness statements; and the patrol intimidated witnesses, misrepresented and fabricated facts, and "knowingly filed false reports."

Though Ober undertook an independent investigation, the lawsuit says, he continued to insist the investigation was accurate. He let Highway Patrol investigators and investigators from his office give "false testimony and inaccurate information" to a committee charged with deciding whether to pursue a criminal case in Kevin's death.

Reached by phone Monday, Assistant State Attorney Pam Bondi said she was not aware the McGinleys had filed the lawsuit. A Highway Patrol spokesman could not be reached late Monday.

Represented by attorney Tom Reynolds of St. Petersburg, the McGinleys seek a jury trial and damages of more than $30,000.

>>Fast facts

For more

To see the Times' interactive special report about the Kevin McGinley death investigation, go to hillsborough.tampabay.com.

Parents say Highway Patrol failed in investigating their son's 1998 death 11/10/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 4:59pm]
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