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Another DUI, this one fatal

She already had a court date for Thursday. Now she's accused of killing a pedestrian.

By KEVIN GRAHAM
Published March 14, 2007


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photo
[Tampa Police Department]
This a a tattoo etched on the man's right bicep.

photo
This is an image on the T-shirt the man was wearing.

TAMPA - A 21-year-old woman, just two days from a court date on driving under the influence, was charged with DUI-manslaughter Tuesday when police say she hit and killed a pedestrian and didn't stop.

Natalie Rodriques, of 7017 Fountain Ave., was arrested and booked into Orient Road Jail on charges of DUI with property damage or personal injury, leaving the scene of a crash with death and felony DUI manslaughter.

On Jan. 11, Rodriques was arrested on charges of DUI, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia after a traffic stop. She pleaded not guilty to the charges and is scheduled for a hearing Thursday before Hillsborough Circuit Judge Thomas Barber.

Despite the January arrest, Rodriques had a valid driver's license, said Julie Baker, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. A license isn't revoked for a DUI arrest unless a person is convicted of the crime, Baker said.

While Rodriques sits behind bars, Tampa detectives are asking the public for help in identifying the victim in Tuesday's hit-and-run.

The man, described as in his 20s and about 5 feet 6 and 143 pounds, had no identification. Detectives have released several photographs, hoping that someone will recognize the man's clothes and a tattoo.

He was wearing a yellow-gold nameplate necklace that said "Irvin," light-blue jean shorts and a light blue T-shirt with an "Avengers" logo on the front. He had a tongue piercing and a tattoo on his right bicep with the name "Maria" in blue and red cursive letters.

Witnesses told police they saw Rodriques driving erratically about 5 a.m. Tuesday as she headed east on Hillsborough Avenue east of the Veterans Expressway. Somewhere near Hesperides Street, police said, she drifted off the road and hit the victim who was walking on the shoulder.

Police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said Rodriques kept driving. She went almost a mile to Lois Avenue before crashing her Dodge pickup into a ditch. Rodriques was on her cell phone trying to call AAA when police arrived, Davis said.

Officers took Rodriques to St. Joseph's Hospital as a precaution, where blood was drawn. Jail records show her blood alcohol content was 0.10.

Florida law presumes people are impaired if their blood alcohol level is above 0.08.

Rodriques declined to comment. A man who answered the door at her Town 'N Country home said little, identifying himself only as her father.

"I don't even know where my truck is," he said. "We're right in the middle of if. I don't know nothing."

John Szpakowski, Rodriques' attorney, said he hasn't talked with her about Tuesday's arrest.

In the January incident, Szpakowski said Rodriques took a Breathalyzer test but had no alcohol in her system.

An arrest report said a Hillsborough sheriff's deputy who pulled Rodriques over on a traffic stop noticed she had slowed and slurred speech and glassy eyes. She was unsteady on her feet, according to the report, and the deputy found marijuana and a pipe in the vehicle.

"Spontaneously," the report said, Rodriques announced to the deputy that she had been using Xanax, a prescription antianxiety pill.

Detectives are awaiting the results of a urinalysis from that arrest, which should be presented when Rodriques goes to court Thursday.

"In light of the new arrest, that case will be delayed until the main case is handled," Szpakowski said.

Rodriques' Florida driving history shows she was convicted on an open container violation in Hernando County in July 2006, and had two separate convictions for speeding that year in Pasco County.

In one incident, Rodriques was doing 91 in a 70 mph speed zone, state records said.

She was cited for doing 85 in a 60 mph zone when she was arrested in January, but adjudication was withheld on that charge.

Tammy Messenger, 45, is a United cab driver who had just left the airport Tuesday when she began driving near Rodriques along Hillsborough Avenue.

"She was driving like a bat out of hell," Messenger said. "I knew she hit something, but I didn't see what she hit."

Messenger said she saw the pickup in the ditch on a later trip to the airport. When she got home and found out what happened on the news, she called police.

"She was giving all of us a hard time. That's a shame she just got a DUI in January and ... that person had to pay for it."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this story. Kevin Graham can be reached at 813 226-3433 or kgraham@sptimes.com.

[Last modified March 14, 2007, 00:15:28]


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