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Driver in fatal hit-run won't face charges

Authorities say that because of the statute of limitations, a man won't face charges in the New Year's Eve 1988 accident outside Crystal River.

Published October 8, 2003

The hit-and-run driver responsible for the death of a 38-year-old Crystal River man finally has been identified - more than a decade after the crash occurred, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

However, because of the statute of limitations, the man won't face criminal prosecution, according to the patrol and prosecutors.

The case goes back to New Year's Eve 1988. About a half-hour before midnight, Carl E. Haigler Jr. was driving his 1985 Ford Ranger north on North Crede Avenue outside Crystal River, according to an FHP news release. John T. Bilyou also was traveling north, on foot, along Crede.

Bilyou was about a mile from his home in a relatively rural area with few houses. Investigators quickly learned he had left his Amphibian Point home about 5 p.m. They didn't know where he was going.

He was found about 7 feet west of the road in critical condition.

Days after the crash Bilyou died. He had never regained consciousness, the report said.

Authorities first deemed the incident a hit-and-run, then changed their minds after determining Bilyou had been struck on the head with a blunt object.

The investigation officially became a murder case.

But it didn't last long. Within the month, they reclassified the case as vehicular homicide based on discussions with the medical examiner and other officials, according to official reports.

Some witnesses told authorities they saw a vehicle running over mailboxes in the area that night where Bilyou was found. One witness saw the vehicle, described as a pickup, stop near where the victim was found.

But while an FHP investigation produced theories on how the crash happened, the vehicle or driver involved was not identified.

On July 28 of this year, information about the identity of the driver came into the FHP Brooksville station, and a followup investigation was conducted, the report said.

On Sept. 30, Haigler, 41, of Inglis was interviewed. He provided a taped confession of the events of the crash, the report said, admitting to driving under the influence of alcohol on the night of the crash on his way home from a night out with friends.

But because of the statute of limitations in effect at the time of the accident, Haigler cannot be prosecuted.

"Back in those days, "no expiration' was limited to capital offenses," Assistant State Attorney Bill Catto said.

Haigler voluntarily returned to Citrus County, where he was served with a warrant for violation of probation on an unrelated matter, the FHP report showed.

- Times staff writer Colleen Jenkins contributed to this report. Suzannah Gonzales can be reached at 860-7312 or

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