tampabay.com

Uninvited, he wrecks Super Bowl party

By THOMAS LAKE
Published February 6, 2007


NEW PORT RICHEY - The pizza was hot and the Bud Light was cold and the Colts were galloping. At the blue ranch house on Terry Loop, Super Bowl Sunday unfolded like a brilliant game plan.

Until an unwanted guest arrived in a stolen car that became a battering ram.

And a woman was dragged nearly 20 feet with her hand wedged in the door.

By the time Bears' quarterback Rex Grossman threw his final interception, at least six people were injured, four cars were smashed and the violence on television had been eclipsed by violence in the driveway.

"I'll never look at Super Bowl night the same," said Luis Santana, 26, whose forearm was gashed by broken glass.

The melee is more surprising given statistical trends revealed by a St. Petersburg Times analysis of data from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

In general, the county calms down when the Super Bowl starts. Calls for service between 6 p.m. and midnight on Super Bowl Sundays 2000 to 2006 were nearly 16 percent lower than on average Sundays during those same years. Things were quietest of all on Jan. 26, 2003, when Tampa Bay watched its Buccaneers trounce Oakland.

Numbers aside, this is what happened on Sunday night, according to sheriff's reports and witness interviews: Nearly 40 people, most of them friends from Gulf High School, gathered at the home of Matt and Rhonda Meister to watch the game. Jeffrey Vanover arrived about the second quarter. He was 22, an ex-boyfriend of one of the guests, and he had not been invited.

Mrs. Meister asked him to leave. He complied, but he sent his ex-girlfriend a threatening text message and reappeared a while later. There was a meeting in the driveway, and the Meisters asked him once again to depart, but by this time there were cars and people surrounding his car, which was not really his but stolen from a woman across town.

Reconstructing the next few seconds is difficult, because it was dark, events happened quickly and no one seems to remember the night quite the same. Suffice it to say that when Vanover put the car in gear, a guest named Brittany Wickham had her wrist in the way of the slamming door. He drove forward anyway, pulling Wickham along with him, wedging her between vehicles, and her cousin said she would have died if she weren't so thin.

The moving car hit a man - witnesses said it ran over his legs, though his name is not in the sheriff's report - and kept going until it crashed in the neighbor's driveway. When Briana Dachniewicz ran to save Wickham, her cousin, a corner of the car door caught her in the face.

Now Vanover left for good. He ran north, but sheriff's deputies caught him just after midnight at his home at 4638 Linnet St. in New Port Richey. He was charged with grand theft and aggravated battery. He was held Monday at the Land O'Lakes jail in lieu of $25,000 bail.

It was unclear how many people, if any, were hospitalized as a result of the vehicular rampage. Wickman and Dachniewicz both refused medical treatment.

Nearly everyone missed the end of the game. The Meisters didn't get back inside until about 1 a.m. It was time to relax. They turned on Jerry Springer.

Thomas Lake can be reached at tlake@sptimes.com or 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.

Fast Facts:

The Super Bowl effect

Calls to the Pasco Sheriff's Office usually drop significantly on Super Bowl evening. The percentage change in calls received between 6 p.m. and midnight is shown in the chart below.

Date Teams/Score % change

1/26/03 Tampa Bay 48, Oakland 21 -28.5

2/5/06 Pittsburgh 21, Seattle 10 - 21.7

2/1/04 New England 32, Carolina 29 -20

2/6/05 New England 24, Philadelphia 21 -18.5

2/3/02 New England 20, St. Louis 17 -16.9

1/28/01 Baltimore 34, N.Y. Giants 7 - 14.8

1/30/00 St. Louis 23, Tennessee 16 +9.8