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Pepper spray is last word

A couple argues and she sprays him while he's driving, deputies say. She's in jail.

By THOMAS LAKE
Published July 26, 2007


PORT RICHEY - Humans survived the last several millennia through hunting and gathering, adaptation to habitat and generally heeding the self-preservation instinct. This instinct warned your ancestors to avoid many things, including black water and wounded rattlesnakes, and in recent years it has expanded to advise you against blinding your driver with pepper spray while your car rolls through public streets.

But this instinct bows to free will.

Especially with a nudge from alcohol.

Witness the tale of Janine Marie Kelly, relayed here from Pasco County Sheriff's Office reports. She was riding home with her boyfriend about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday when she seems to have lost her temper.

After interviewing both of them, a deputy was given to understand they had been at a friend's house, and she'd had a few drinks.

Kelly is 25. Her occupation is listed as "Dial America."

She began to yell, the reports say.

Her boyfriend, 26-year-old Brian Ditalma, said the diatribe touched all Four Horsemen of the Domestic Dispute: Money, Children, Deception and Relationship Status. Then came the chemical warfare.

Ditalma's account makes it sound as if the attack was unprovoked. Kelly told the deputy that Ditalma pushed her while he was driving and she pulled a pepper-spray canister from her purse, reports say.

They were near the intersection of Stone Road and Harvey Lane in the Holiday Hill subdivision just east of U.S. 19. She sprayed him in the face, reports say.

Pepper spray, or oleoresin capsicum, is 600 times hotter than cayenne pepper, according to several published reports. He was in pain, driving nearly blind.

According to the Sheriff's Office, here's what happened next:

He slowed the car to a crawl.

She opened her door.

And she fell to the pavement.

There are at least three explanations for how this happened.

He says she jumped out.

She says he pushed her out.

An independent witness says that he hit a bump and she fell out.

Regardless, no one was seriously injured. The arrest report makes no mention of a crash, suggesting that Ditalma managed to stop the car without further incident. Kelly, of 8917 Harvey Lane, Port Richey, was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of domestic battery and held without bail Wednesday at the Land O'Lakes jail.

According to the incident report, the independent witness said, "Daddy hit a bump and Mommy fell out."

The independent witness is 6 years old.

Ditalma and Kelly have been together 10 years. Their two children were in the car with them. And if it appears that she took leave of her maternal instinct as well as that of self-preservation, this is the reason she gave for opening the car door.

She wanted to spare the children from the fumes.

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