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Family questions reports on biker's death

"I want the truth," says the father of the 19-year-old who deputies say ran a red light before striking a car.

By CHRIS TISCH
Published July 9, 2003

photo
[Times photo: Douglas R. Clifford]
A motorcycle helmet hangs on a cross at Main Street and Belcher Road near where 19-year-old Kenny Capelo died Sunday.

PALM HARBOR - Kenny Capelo used to tell people what it felt like to ride his motorcycle.

"He used to always say, "When I'm on a motorcycle, I feel free,' " said his uncle, Joe Capelo. "He felt like he was flying. His mom would always say, "Kenny, be careful.' And he would say, "Mom, when I'm on the motorcycle, I'm alive. I forget about everything and I'm in a different world.' "

On Sunday night, Kenny Capelo was killed after his motorcycle struck a car in Dunedin. He was 19 years old. Family members on Tuesday were preparing for his funeral, set for today, his uncle said.

Capelo was born in Winchester, Mass. He came to Florida in 1994 and graduated from East Lake High School last year. He worked with his father, John Capelo, at his business, John's Auto Service and Sales.

"He has been working with his dad since he was 10 years old," his uncle said.

Joe Capelo said his nephew was a good young man who stayed away from drugs and alcohol.

"He touched so many people in different ways," he said.

Family members said Kenny Capelo was the oldest child, grandchild and nephew of a large family. He was close to his younger brother and sister, Jeff and Melissa.

"He treated her like a princess," the family said in a statement, adding: "He always put family and friends before himself."

Family members are finding it difficult to believe reports of how the Sunday night accident took place. Pinellas sheriff's officials said a patrol deputy saw Kenny Capelo run a red light, then take off at a high speed when she tried to stop him. The deputy did not pursue Capelo, sheriff's officials said.

Minutes later, deputies said, Capelo ran a red light at Main Street and Belcher Road. He struck a car and died at the scene, deputies said.

Family members say they have heard from people who think the crash transpired differently.

"I want the truth," his father said. "It's the only thing I can do for him is defend him right now.

"There's all different stories," his uncle said.

Joe Capelo said his nephew had owned his motorcycle for about a year. He took good care of it. He was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.

"He loved motorcycles," he said.

Kenny Capelo also was a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church in Palm Harbor and the Portuguese-American Club in St. Petersburg.

Family and friends were planning a vigil Tuesday night at the crash site. They planned to release balloons into the sky after 10 p.m., the time the crash occurred, family members said.

Loved ones placed a cross on the northeast corner of the intersection of the crash site. Dozens of candles, scores of flowers and many notes and letters were placed there as well.

A motorcycle helmet hung from the cross' right arm. Family members said the helmet belonged to one of Kenny Capelo's close friends who now plans to give up riding motorcycles.

- Times photographer Doug Clifford contributed to this report. Chris Tisch can be reached at 445-4156 or tisch@sptimes.com

[Last modified July 9, 2003, 02:03:35]


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