TAMPA — For three years, Meghan Aguerreberry has tried to understand why her husband Pedro was mowed down by a driver while biking with his two young boys along a paved path just minutes from their home.
As the criminal case against the driver wrapped up Monday, Aguerreberry is still left wondering why.
Mikese Morse, 33, wasn’t capable of reason when he spotted the family June 24, 2018, and drove at them along New Tampa Boulevard, a court and prosecutors agreed. Morse will be committed to the state’s North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center in Gainesville, a maximum-security, all-male mental health facility.
Reason wasn’t one of the voices that told Morse to turn his Dodge Avenger around, drive off the road and plow into the bicyclists. The father was fatally injured, his 3-year-old son was knocked unconscious and his 8-year-old was thrown from his bike, cut and screaming as he tried to help the others. They were on a trip for ice cream to Twistee Treat so mom could sleep.
Morse sped away from the scene and was later arrested at his parents’ home after Tampa police spotted his car parked nearby, a plastic tarp taped over a large crack in his windshield.
The two boys were taken to a different hospital than their father, Meghan Aguerreberry told Hillsborough Circuit Judge Mark Kiser on Monday. She had to choose where to go first and went to her boys. Hours later, she learned from hospital staff that her husband had died.
“I wasn’t able to get to him fast enough,” Aguerreberry testified. “I never saw my husband alive again. ... No one was there the moment he died, and no one will be held responsible for his death.”
Morse won’t face criminal charges after experts agreed he is not guilty by reason of insanity. Three state psychologists said he suffers from bipolar schizoaffective disorder. On Monday, he and his parents — Michael and Khadeeja Morse — agreed to accept that his mental illness makes Morse dangerous to himself and to others.
The family had hoped for a solution that incorporated private care and a framework enabling Morse to come home someday. On Monday, though, they said the state-run center is the best way to ensure he gets the help he needs.
Morse’s parents spoke Monday of their own struggles to understand what happened to their son’s mind. Morse was a standout track and field star at Freedom High School in North Tampa and had qualified to compete during Olympic Trials. He graduated with a degree in marketing from the University of South Florida, but suffered several psychotic episodes.
Just days before he plowed into the Aguerreberry family, Morse showed up at a Tampa Police Department office and begged officers to lock him away before he hurt someone. They took him to Gracepoint wellness center in Tampa for treatment and he was released before he should have been, his parents said.
Shortly before the crash, Morse posted Instagram videos showing him rambling incoherently about evil forces and “energies changing” inside him.
In testimony through Zoom and a court translator, Pedro Aguerreberry’s parents in Argentina described the effect their son’s death has had on their family. One of his sisters, who was already suffering from mental health issues, took her own life four months after the death.
But his father, a psychology professor at the University of Buenos Aires, said he reviewed Morse’s case files and agreed Morse was not in his right mind when he mowed down Pedro Aguerreberry.
“Despite my own pain as a father, I would like to see Morse in a psychiatric counseling center,” the father said through a translator on Monday. “Not there as punishment, but as prevention so no more tragedies take place in either of our families lives.”
Morse also appeared at Monday’s hearing via Zoom, from jail — a precaution made necessary by COVID-19 outbreaks at Hillsborough County’s lockups.
“I just want to apologize to your family and friends, I want to apologize for the pain I’ve caused,” Morse told the Aguerreberry family. “I really really regret not getting the help I needed before this had to happen, and I know my words don’t mean that much, but I want you to know I really am sorry.”