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    Hit-and-run suspect arrested in Canada

    By Times staff writer

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published June 17, 2001

    LARGO -- A local restaurant owner suspected in a hit-and-run crash that killed a bicyclist last month was arrested Saturday in Canada.

    Mark Wicks, owner of the Red Lion restaurant in Indian Rocks Beach, is accused of fleeing the scene of a May 18 crash that killed 39-year-old Stephen Gunter.

    Wicks was arrested about 7:30 p.m. Saturday near Toronto, said Largo police spokesman Mac McMullen. Wicks was wanted on a warrant charging him with leaving the scene of an accident involving a death -- a second-degree felony.

    Canadian authorities will hold Wicks until he is extradited to Florida, McMullen said. Investigators said they had suspected that Wicks was heading to Canada, hoping to avoid prosecution.

    Police say that on the night of May 18, Wicks was driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo near Belcher and Ulmerton roads when he went through a red light and hit Gunter, who died at Largo Medical Center about a half-hour after the crash.

    Police first suspected Wicks when an anonymous caller said Wicks cleared out his garage the morning after the hit-and-run crash, then backed in a damaged maroon and gray Laredo.

    Investigators learned that a man matching Wicks' description had taken the damaged Laredo to a body shop in Daytona Beach. Police said Wicks told body shop employees that he had hit a deer.

    Police learned that one of Wicks' top managers at the Red Lion, Sandra Brand, had leased the Laredo, but allowed Wicks to use it.

    Both she and Wicks hired lawyers and refused to talk to police.

    But then police found a witness who told them a man had been driving the Laredo that hit Gunter. Knowing that, prosecutors subpoenaed Brand, who told them Wicks had been behind the wheel.

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