Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Police: Man who shot himself while driving crashes into New Port Richey home

NEW PORT RICHEY

He was asleep in bed with his wife and dogs and didn't hear anything until he felt something hit his spine. Then it was like a storm on top of him; thunder, rubble and cinder blocks raining down. Jeff Dal Pezzo thought it was a tornado. He instinctively wrapped his body around his wife. He felt their bed being pushed across the tile floor, crunching against the wall. Then whatever it was kept coming, pushing him into his wife, his wife into the wall. Their basset hound was pinned in a corner.

Then it stopped.

Dal Pezzo, 27, opened his eyes. It was 4:30 a.m. Friday, hours before dawn, but it was bright in his room. As he woke up he realized there was a pickup on top of him:

A truck in his bedroom, headlights on, engine running.

Inside his house.

There was just enough room for his wife to wiggle out. Then Dal Pezzo worked himself free.

"Are you okay?" he asked his wife.

"Yes," said Melissa Krpal, 28. "Are you okay?"

"Yes," Dal Pezzo said.

They checked on the dogs. Two were fine. They couldn't reach the basset hound, Gir, which was wedged in a corner. He was stuck, but appeared unharmed.

Then Dal Pezzo turned toward the truck, a 2005 GMC Sierra with an extended cab. Nearly all of the cab was plunged into the bedroom. Dal Pezzo couldn't see a driver. He climbed over the bed, over the cinder blocks, over boxes he and his wife still hadn't had time to unpack since they moved to the house on Greenwood Street a few months ago. He opened the driver's side door. He saw a man slumped, face down on the seat.

Dal Pezzo backed away and called 911.

He thought it was a drunken driver.

But it turned out to be something much more bizarre.

The driver was Dallas Hatfield, a 56-year-old landlord who lived a mile away on Allamanda Drive.

A cousin said Hatfield had been suicidal in the past and had been acting strangely recently.

On Friday morning, New Port Richey police say, Hatfield decided to kill himself by shooting himself in the head while he was driving his truck, which then careened into the young couple's home.

Hatfield and the couple did not know each other.

Lt. James Steffens of the New Port Richey Police Department said Dal Pezzo and Krpal were inches away from dying Friday.

"They're very, very lucky," Steffens said.

Steffens said the medical examiner will determine the official cause of death. He said the investigation continues.

"As to why this event took place — I don't have an answer for that at this time," he said.

Hatfield's cousin, Christopher Hankins, 54, said he is surprised at how Hatfield chose to end his life. He said his cousin battled depression and addiction for years and had attempted suicide previously. But to die this way — his disregard for others was baffling, Hankins said.

"He wouldn't want to hurt anybody but himself," Hankins said.

Hankins said his cousin was gentle and generous. He said he was never married and had no children. He said Hatfield grew up in Pasco County and graduated from Gulf High School. Hankins had been living with him. He felt guilty Friday that he hadn't been able to help his cousin.

"I'm going to be wondering about this for the rest of my life," Hankins said.

Dal Pezzo and Krpal were examined at a hospital Friday for injuries. Dal Pezzo said the doctors told them they were lucky to be alive and to come away from this without serious injury. Both are sore, achy, cut and bruised. Dal Pezzo's back felt like it was on fire. But no broken bones. A firefighter rescued their dog, who appeared uninjured.

Their landlord hired people to patch wood over the hole in the bedroom. The building was sound enough for Dal Pezzo and Krpal to stay there. On Friday night, they ordered cheese­steaks and sat down, shocked and stunned. Until Friday morning, things had just begun to get better for them. Both were working full time. He is a manager at a window company. She is an underwriter. They finally had enough money to move out of his mother's house and get this place. Their alarm clock was set to go off at 5 a.m. so they could get ready for work. They thought they were doing everything right.

"What did me and my wife do?" Dal Pezzo said. "We didn't know this guy."

He said it was selfish for Hatfield to kill himself while driving.

"He didn't care. He figured he's gone, so what does it matter who he takes with him," Dal Pezzo said.

"Is that really what this world is coming to?"

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Police: Man who shot himself while driving crashes into New Port Richey home 09/09/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 9, 2011 8:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. St. Petersburg youth baseball concession stand vandalized

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG — The early-morning phone call warned Charles Castle, president of Burg Baseball, to "expect the worst.'' The organization's concession stand had been vandalized.

     Cliff Williams, Vice President of the Burg Baseball Inc., St. Petersburg, looks at a damaged and trashed concession stand at the Lakewood Baseball Complex, home of the Burg Baseball. According to Williams someone vandalized the concession stand either Saturday or Sunday. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times

  2. Tampa charter school teacher charged with firing handgun at ground

    Crime

    TAMPA — A Tampa charter school teacher was arrested Sunday after she fired a gun into the ground during a dispute with her boyfriend, police said.

    Melody Patrice Bing, a teacher at the Village of Excellence Academy in Tampa, emerged from her home holding a weapon and dropped it when police confronted her at gunpoint. [Tampa Police Department]
  3. Tuesday's Nothing More concert moved from the State Theatre to Jannus Live in St. Petersburg

    Blogs

    Nothing More was one of the highlights of April's 98 Rockfest, a thoroughly entertaining rock outfit with a larger-than-live stage presence.

    Nothing More performed at 98 Rockfest 2017 in Tampa.
  4. Buccaneers-Vikings Turning Point, Week 3: Overreaction vs. reality

    Bucs

    "None of us really know how this group of 53 guys is going to come together and how we're going to play this season."

    Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs torched a porous Bucs secondary Sunday with eight catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns. [Getty Images]
  5. Triad Retail Media names Sherry Smith as CEO

    Corporate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Triad Retail Media, a St. Petersburg-based digital ads company, said CEO Roger Berdusco is "leaving the company to pursue new opportunities" and a member of the executive team, Sherry Smith, is taking over.

    Roger Berdusco is stepping down as CEO at Triad Retail Media to pursue other opportunities. [Courtesy of Triad Retail Media]