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St. Petersburg police: driver in fatal pursuit high on prescription drugs, cocaine

ST. PETERSBURG — Frank William Roberto tried to flee from officers on Jan. 10, authorities said, but ended up causing a wreck that left him and five other people hospitalized and one person — Roberto's passenger, the man police actually wanted — dead.

St. Petersburg police arrested Roberto after he was released from the hospital on Wednesday, and revealed more about the man behind the wheel: He was high on prescription drugs and cocaine at the time of the crash and hadn't had a valid license in four years.

Roberto, 40, was charged with DUI manslaughter in the death of his passenger. He also faces charges of fleeing and eluding an officer with wanton disregard causing death, DUI involving serious bodily injury, driving with a suspended or revoked licence resulting in death, and two counts of DUI resulting in property damage.

On the day of the wreck officers were looking for Kenneth Gordon Davis Jr. in connection with a purse-snatching. Relatives told police the 29-year-old was a drug addict who regularly stole to support his habit. Officers said they were also told Davis had carried a weapon in the past and vowed that he would not go back to prison.

Officers found him in the passenger seat of a Kia driven by Roberto. They tried to stop the car at 22nd Avenue S and 46th Street S. A pursuit was authorized. A few minutes later, a K-9 officer activated his emergency lights and tried to pull the Kia over as it drove north on 49th Street S near 15th Avenue S.

A minute later, police said the Kia turned into oncoming traffic on Fifth Avenue N, striking a 2000 Ford pick-up head-on and injuring the two occupants.

Davis was killed by the impact, police said. Roberto and the occupants of the other vehicles were hospitalized for various injuries. A blood test showed Roberto had traces of oxycodone, opiates, benzodiazepines and cocaine in his system, police said.

Roberto had also been declared a habitual traffic offender in 2008, records show. He was being held Thursday in the Pinellas County jail in lieu of $141,000 bail.