ST. PETERSBURG — An act of kindness ended tragically when the body of a missing motorist was found Friday more than 15 hours after he pulled over on the side of Interstate 275 to assist another driver.
Dhimitri Andoni, 22, of Clearwater was driving north on I-275 just past downtown St. Petersburg shortly after 9 p.m. Thursday when he saw another driver lose control and spin out into the median, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Andoni pulled his 2015 Hyundai sedan into the shoulder to help.
After the other driver left, Andoni walked back to his car. That's when troopers said he was struck by a passing 1996 Ford F-150 pickup driven by Dana Thomas Byrd, 30, of St. Petersburg.
Byrd stopped his pickup and checked on Andoni, troopers said, discovering that Andoni was dead.
Then Byrd jumped into Andoni's Hyundai and drove it to an office at 2500 25th Ave. N, leaving his pickup behind. He abandoned Andoni's vehicle at the business, investigators said. It was unclear if Byrd had any connection to that office.
Hours later, troopers said, Andoni's father used a GPS tracker to trace his son's Hyundai to the office, then called law enforcement to report his son missing.
About 12:30 p.m. Friday, a Florida Department of Transportation road ranger found Byrd's abandoned pickup truck on the interstate — and also Andoni's body.
Troopers arrested Byrd at his home Friday night on charges of leaving the scene of a crash involving a death and grand theft auto.
The Highway Patrol did not say why Byrd fled the scene, stole Andoni's car or left his own pickup behind.
Byrd has been arrested 16 times in Pinellas County since 2005, jail records show, on charges including driving under the influence, retail theft, child neglect, domestic battery and violation of probation.
Investigators are asking the driver whom Andoni helped on Thursday to contact the Highway Patrol at (813) 558-1800.
Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or email@example.com. Follow @ByJoshSolomon.