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Chase ends with no death this time

A man who was charged with manslaughter in 1995 when his girlfriend died fleeing from him is in trouble again.

By CANDACE RONDEAUX
Published June 24, 2003

TARPON SPRINGS - More than seven years ago, Joseph Adamo faced a manslaughter charge following a car chase in which his ex-girlfriend died after her Jeep overturned as she tried to flee from him.

Adamo later saw a jury reduce the case against him, but he still served two years in prison on other charges.

Over the weekend, Adamo, now 26, landed back in trouble with Tarpon Springs police after a high-speed police chase that ended when he wrecked his current girlfriend's car.

Adamo of 266 Timberlane Drive, Palm Harbor, was driving north on U.S. 19 in a silver 2001 Ford Mustang about 8:45 a.m. Saturday when the chase began, police said.

Tarpon Springs police Officer Steve Gassen tried to stop Adamo after he clocked the Mustang driving 86 mph in a 50 mph zone. But when Gassen signaled for Adamo to pull over, the Mustang shot ahead toward Tarpon Avenue, weaving in and out of traffic at nearly 90 mph, police said.

Adamo then zoomed west onto Pine Street and into the Cypress Place apartment complex, police said. The Mustang spun out of control and plunged into a retention pond near an entryway of the complex.

Uninjured, Adamo jumped out of the car and began to run. But Officer Jonathan Lord soon caught him, police said.

The Mustang was registered to Adamo's girlfriend, whose name was not released, police said. She had given him permission to drive her vehicle, but she didn't know his license was suspended.

Police arrested the ex-convict minutes after Saturday's crash at the apartment complex, charging him with aggravated fleeing and eluding, a felony, and resisting arrest without violence, a misdemeanor. He also received citations charging him with reckless driving, knowingly driving on a suspended license, leaving the scene of an accident with property damage.

Adamo was booked at the Pinellas County Jail on Saturday, but was released Sunday after posting $22,000 bail.

On Dec. 16, 1995, Adamo was charged with manslaughter when his 19-year-old girlfriend, Nicki Koumoundros, died in a car crash when he chased her in his car at Fred Howard Park.

That chase started near Florida Avenue and Sunset Road and ended inside the park as Koumoundros looked for park rangers to help her.

A friend who saw the start of the chase testified at Adamo's trial that Koumoundros became alarmed when she saw Adamo.

"It was like the devil was after her," friend Sarah Torres said in 1997.

As her Jeep Cherokee and the Camaro he was driving sped through the park, Koumoundros swerved around a sharp curve. The Jeep flipped onto its roof, and she suffered fatal head injuries.

A jury convicted Adamo of manslaughter because of "culpable negligence " in 1997, but, in a rare ruling, a judge ordered a new trial, saying Adamo's lawyer put on an inadequate defense.

At his second trial, in late 1999, a jury decided Adamo wasn't directly responsible for his former girlfriend's death, convicting him of misdemeanor culpable negligence. In February 2000, he was sentenced to 8 years in prison on unrelated burglary and violation of probation charges.

He was released from prison in August 2001.

- Candace Rondeaux can be reached at 727 445-4182 or rondeaux@sptimes.com

[Last modified June 24, 2003, 01:47:56]


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