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Two men in Ford truck accused of shotgun attacks on Pinellas drivers

OLDSMAR — For Darlena and Natalie Roberts, just visiting from Indiana, a quick trip to Wal-Mart early Wednesday turned into a race for their lives.

"Mom, they got a gun," Natalie, 23, said. "Get out of here."

The red Ford F-150 pickup truck had been gaining on them for several blocks when Natalie screamed, "Mom, they're going to kill us."

They ducked just in time to hear three shots pierce the 2004 Ford Freestar's rear tire and rim as they sped along Tampa Road. As the pickup gained ground, Darlena Roberts slammed on the brakes. The truck zipped past and she pulled into a convenience store to get away.

Within less than 10 minutes, two other drivers experienced the same terror as Pinellas sheriff's deputies say two men, one of whom wielded a 12-gauge shotgun, began randomly pursuing drivers, running them off the road and pocking the Roberts' car with buckshot.

Sheriff's deputies say the incident began as a case of road rage and escalated into a string of shootings. No one was injured, deputies say, but the incidents left occupants of all three cars terrified.

One driver was delivering newspapers, and another was just heading home from work. The Roberts are in town for two weeks to see Darlena's elderly mother and were on their way home from Wal-Mart.

Deputies say they were all victims of two men with long criminal histories.

Todd Naylor, 32, fired the shotgun from the passenger seat, deputies say.

About a decade ago, Naylor was charged in a high-profile racketeering and arson case. Officials from Thunderbird Helicopters, including Naylor's father, Richard, faced charges in a scheme in which the company's inventory was torched.

Prosecutors dropped the case against Todd Naylor for what his lawyer at the time called a lack of evidence. His father pleaded to his charges and received prison time.

Naylor previously has been accused of crashing boats, disorderly conduct while intoxicated, abusing drugs and more recently driving with a suspended license, according to court records.

Deputies say Jason Strauss, 35, drove the pickup in Wednesday's incidents. Strauss and Naylor live together at 2159 Karan Way in Clearwater.

Strauss has been arrested on charges ranging from burglary and grand theft to fraud and drug possession, Florida criminal records show.

The three incidents Wednesday occurred within minutes, authorities said, and each victim provided similar descriptions of the truck involved. Deputies confiscated a shotgun and spent shells from the truck.

Hyung Kim, 44, was driving his Toyota Corolla home from work around 2:30 a.m. Then, authorities say, Strauss ran Kim off the road.

Kim's tire exploded, and Naylor got out of the truck, deputies said. He pointed a shotgun at Kim and ordered him out of the car.

Kim sped away, the burst tire flapping beneath him, as the red truck chased behind. Kim got away and called 911.

Moments later, Megan Woods, 29, and her 16-year-old sister, Makenna, called 911 to report that they were delivering newspapers near Forest Lake Road in Oldsmar when they, like Kim, were forced off the road by a red Ford pickup truck, deputies say.

Naylor leaned from the vehicle, pointing his shotgun, authorities said, as Woods' vehicle crashed into a chain-link fence near Old Village Way.

Deputies said Naylor and Strauss soon found the Roberts as they headed home from Wal-Mart. The Roberts don't know the roads well and became disoriented as the pickup gained ground on them. Several gunshots, screams and a 911 call followed.

A deputy with a police dog saw the truck turning north on U.S. 19, pulled it over and arrested the two men.

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Brian Spegele can be reached at bspegele@sptimes.com.

Two men in Ford truck accused of shotgun attacks on Pinellas drivers 07/08/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 11, 2009 12:54pm]
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