When police in Columbia, S.C., stopped the 1983 gray Chevrolet Caprice at 12:45 a.m. Jan. 23, they said they found more than an ounce of marijuana and an open can of beer. That might have been considered routine, but for one factor.
The driver was Troy Hambrick, easily one of the best prep football players ever to come out of Pasco County and a rising star at the University of South Carolina.
That put the story on the front page in both states. It also placed a spotlight on the other man who police said was in the car, James Craig Henry, 35, who gave his address as W Early Street in Brooksville.
The trouble is, Henry was hundreds of miles away at his job at a beer wholesaler in Orlando.
"A relative called me the next morning and said that my name was in the paper for a crime committed in South Carolina," said Henry, who grew up in Brooksville and played football at Hernando High School. "I was stunned. I said to myself: "Man, not again.' I've been telling people for the last three years that somebody else is using my name."
It took South Carolina two months to agree.
State deputy solicitor Jonathan Gasser confirmed Monday that the man arrested with Hambrick was not Henry but in fact Brooksville native Bruce Edmond Warren, 35, who played football in Brooksville with Henry in 1979-80.
Warren, who has a lengthy criminal record for crimes ranging from distribution of crack cocaine to aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, is a fugitive wanted on at least eight warrants issued in Hernando County.
On Friday, the Richland County Sheriff's Office dropped drug charges and traffic violations against Hambrick. And Monday, Gasser's office turned its attention toward Warren.
"We got fingerprints sent to us from Florida authorities, and it was a positive match with Warren," Gasser said. "A bench warrant has been issued for the arrest of Warren. He is considered a fugitive of justice, as we speak.
"Troy Hambrick has gone from being an accused co-defendant to being a material witness in the case against Warren."
Hambrick, 20, was unavailable for comment. He was reinstated to the university football squad after the charges were dropped.
Hambrick, a running back, was the Times' 1994 Suncoast football Player of the Year at Dade City's Pasco High School. In 1992, he helped Pasco win the state Class 3A championship. That year, his brother Darren Hambrick was the Times' defensive Player of the Year and earned a scholarship to the University of Florida, where he was a linebacker before being kicked off the team after a fight with a teammate. He transferred to South Carolina, where both brothers started last fall. Darren will return this fall as a senior, Troy as a sophomore.
South Carolina authorities said Warren had no identification on him when he was arrested and at first refused to give his name.
"After being incarcerated, it was explained to him that he had no chance of bond and he then confessed that the drugs were his and that Troy did not know who he was," Gasser said. "Now, we know he is not who he said he was."
The news came as a relief to Henry.
"This is great," he said. "I hope they catch him and put him in jail. It's time for his reign to stop. He's using my name to keep his butt out of prison. If he wants to be a bad guy, he should be brave enough to use his own name. I just hope this is the end."
Henry said his nightmare began in June 1994, when he received at his mother's house in Brooksville a letter from the Florida Highway Patrol saying he failed to pay outstanding tickets and that failure to pay would result in a warrant for his arrest. Henry, who served four years (1981-84) in the Army and one with the Marines (1987-88), took the letter to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office in Brooksville.
An officer told Henry that there were warrants for his arrest in Pasco and Hernando counties.
"I said: "For what?' and they told me it was for writing a bad check. I told him that I didn't even have a checking account," Henry said. "Of course, they did not believe me and I was arrested and spent the night in jail."
On Jan. 18, 1995, Henry thought the problem was solved when Pasco County sheriff's Deputy Angel Rojas told authorities that the man he had given a traffic citation to in Dade City used Henry's name but was somebody else.
An interoffice memo from Pasco sheriff's Sgt. Roger Mills dated Jan. 18, 1995, reads: "It has been determined that the citation was issued in error. The violator had fraudulently obtained Mr. Henry's driver's license and used it for identification upon being stopped by Dep. Rojas. . . . Dep. Rojas confirmed that Mr. Henry was not the person who received the citation. I would request that his citation be dismissed in order to clear Mr. Henry's driving record. An investigation is pending in an attempt to locate the suspect that fraudulently used Mr. Henry's driver's license."
"I thought that was it," Henry said. "I thought that they were going to clear everything up. Obviously they didn't."
He said he testified in court that Warren had obtained his driver's license through a mutual friend and he knew that the latest mishap had to involve Warren. "I knew immediately who it was," Henry said.
Last week, a subpoena from Gasser's office arrived at Henry's mother's W Early Street address. Henry was unable to attend the court hearing and could not afford a lawyer.
"I felt like there was nothing I could do," Henry said. "I knew it wasn't me in South Carolina with that Hambrick boy, but I had to prove it."
"It's a difficult situation for Mr. Henry to be in," Gasser said. "The sheriff's department up here is going to make an amendment to the arrest and place it under the name Bruce Warren, with the alias James C. Henry."