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WITNESS: RAGE LED TO DEATH OF CHILD

Tosha Montgomery testified Thursday that she locked eyes with her ex-boyfriend moments before he revved his engine, then sped toward her at a Fourth of July barbecue, killing a 2-year-old in his path.

"When I looked up, he was there," Montgomery told a Hillsborough County jury. "He seen me and I seen him, and he zoomed on up in the yard."

Derrick McNeal, 40, denies he tried to hurt Montgomery and claims he thought he heard gunshots on July 4, 2005, ducked down and never saw where he was heading as he plowed into an East Tampa yard full of children. When the dust settled, Demontaye Simmons, 2, was dead and Toshayla Hall, 4, was hospitalized.

Prosecutors plan to ask for the death penalty if the jury convicts McNeal of first-degree murder. He's also on trial this week for three counts of attempted murder and five counts of aggravated stalking, plus several other charges stemming from a tumultuous relationship with Montgomery.

"He had threatened all my friends and my family," Montgomery said in court.

Prosecutors have accused McNeal of harassing Montgomery and her family after their breakup in April 2005. They say he sometimes called her parents' home up to two dozen times a day. He wanted to know where Montgomery was and how to reach her, Assistant State Attorney Kimberly Hindman said.

Montgomery spent time at a domestic abuse shelter to get protection from McNeal, Hindman said.

Defense attorney Daniel Hernandez said McNeal was the victim and accused Montgomery and her relatives of harassing him.

During cross examination, Hernandez read aloud a telephone number and asked Montgomery if she recognized it. She grew visibly upset, then said it was hers.

She blasted Hernandez for repeating it, because she didn't want McNeal to have it.

"Thanks to you, now he got it," Montgomery said.

Hernandez said the number had been included in records provided to the defense by the State Attorney's Office. He said they'd had them in their possession for the past four years.

Other people who attended the Fourth of July barbecue are expected to testify throughout the week.

Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

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