Copyright Times Publishing Co. Jul 7, 2005
The search for Derrick McNeal, accused of running over two young children as he aimed his pickup truck at his ex-girlfriend during a Fourth of July barbecue, ended Wednesday in room 233 of the Best Western Motel in Brandon.
Authorities say McNeal, 36, was taken into custody about 6 p.m. after a brief struggle with Tampa police detectives, Hillsborough Sheriff's deputies and agents from the U.S. Marshal's Office.
The investigators pursued leads all day and ended up at the motel on Adamo Drive, said U.S. Marshal's spokeswoman Lisa Alfonso.
"He didn't comply with our orders to come out of the room, so we had a brief struggle," Alfonso said. "But there were so many of us in the room, he didn't have much of a fight. It really couldn't have gone any better." Wednesday night, detectives took McNeal to Tampa police headquarters for questioning.
Sgt. James Contento said McNeal, a career criminal with more than a dozen felony convictions, will be booked into the county jail on charges of murder and attempted murder.
According to police, McNeal ran down the children while trying to hit Tosha Montgomery, who broke up with him in April after four years of dating. They say McNeal harassed Montgomery after the breakup, throwing a brick into the windshield of her parents' car and stalking her.
Authorities secured warrants to arrest McNeal on charges of aggravated stalking and throwing a deadly missile into an occupied vehicle after Montgomery filed police reports last month, but McNeal evaded police for weeks.
Then came Monday's hit and run, and the all-out search that followed. Just after 7:30 p.m. Monday, Montgomery was enjoying a barbecue at the east Tampa home of friend Toshia Kenner's grandmother, 66-year-old Louise Edwards.
Montgomery, 30, was in the front yard of the house at 3201 E 24th Ave., when a man came driving down the street in a red Dodge pickup, police said. Witnesses later identified the driver as McNeal.
The driver gunned the gas, rammed another car out of the way, plowed through a chain-link fence surrounding the yard and steered the pickup toward Montgomery, according to police and witnesses.
Toshayla Hall, 4, and Demontaye Simmons, 2, were playing in the yard. The truck grazed Montgomery and hit the children. McNeal abandoned the truck and fled on foot, according to police.
Rescue workers treated Montgomery at the scene for minor injuries.
Demontaye died at the scene. By the time his mother got there, rescue workers had covered his tiny body in a white sheet.
Toshayla went to Tampa General Hospital with scrapes and bruises. She was released Wednesday evening, just as her mother, Toshia Kenner, heard news of McNeal's arrest.
"I'm so happy," Kenner said. "I just want to see him behind bars. I hope he burns in hell."
"I'm happy he got caught," said Demontaye's mother, Tatiana Johnson. "Now he can't do any more damage."
McNeal's father, 56-year-old Ernest McNeal, said he is relieved his son is in custody. But he does not believe investigators' account of the hit and run crash.
Ernest McNeal said his son hit the gas of the pickup by accident after he was shot at by someone near the house along E 24th Avenue.
Contento said detectives found no evidence of shots fired near the house. McNeal called his father after the hit and run and told him he had been shot, but Contento said officers found no evidence of injuries when they arrested McNeal Wednesday.