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Teen clash turns deadly

photo
Florida Highway Patrol investigators interview friends of 17-year-old Allison Decatrel, the victim of a fatal hit-and-run Sunday at S Highlands Avenue and Lynn Street in Inverness. Decatrel was trick-or-treating with friends when two teenage boys she knew drove by, insulting the group. Decatrel and one of her friends were struck by the car.  [Times photo: Steve Hasel]

GIRL HIT BY CAR: One youth is killed and another injured after an argument between teenage trick-or-treaters and a driver.

School, friends shocked

By JIM ROSS and AMYLIA WIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 2, 1999


INVERNESS -- A Halloween trick-or-treat excursion turned deadly late Sunday when an Inverness teenager drove his vehicle into a group of fellow teens, killing one and injuring another, authorities said.

Law officers and prosecutors are treating the case as a homicide, not an accident: They have arrested the driver, Richard Burzynski Jr., 17, on a first-degree murder charge and might prosecute him as an adult.

The incident began about 10:15 p.m. when Allison Decatrel, 17, of Inverness was walking with friends in the Highlands section of Inverness. She and her girlfriends wore costumes that made them look like men. The boys dressed to look like women.

photo Richard Burzynski Jr. (left), 17, has been charged with first-degree murder in the hit-and-run death of 17-year-old Alison Decatrel (right). He was apprehended in Alachua County.

Burzynski and his passenger drove past the group at Highlands Avenue and Lynn Street. They had a gun in the vehicle -- and insults ready for the boys.

"They called them "faggots' as we were walking up the road," said Kerri-Ann McMullen, 17, of Inverness who was trick-or-treating with the group.

Shortly afterward, Burzynski drove his 1984 Buick into the group, killing Decatrel and injuring one of the boys' feet, authorities said.

Then, either Burzynski or his passenger took the gun and began firing shots toward a nearby house. No one was injured.

Burzynski fled the scene and got as far away as Waldo, the small town northeast of Gainesville best known for its aggressive policy toward speeding motorists.

About 1:30 a.m. Monday, a Waldo police lieutenant stopped Burzynski's vehicle because it was damaged and had a non-functioning headlight. Before long, the lieutenant learned the boys were from Citrus County and that authorities there wanted Burzynski and his companion in connection with the fatal hit-and-run incident.

Late Monday, authorities were holding Burzynski at an Alachua County juvenile lockup pending transport to a similar facility in Ocala. Burzynski, 6122 E Ivy Lane, Inverness, was held on charges of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.

[Times art]
Also in custody was Thomas Alan Bonneville, 16, 355 S Bauer Road, Lecanto, who was held on charges of being an accessory to murder after the fact.

Bonneville was driving the car when the pair was stopped in Waldo, but he was a passenger while the boys were confronting the trick-or-treating teens in Inverness, authorities said.

The Florida Highway Patrol continued its investigation Monday, and the state attorney's office prepared to decide how it will prosecute the suspects.

According to those agencies, and other accounts, this is what happened:

A group of friends gathered to celebrate Halloween. Among them were Decatrel; McMullen and her brother, Chris Elmore; his friend, Mark Maillet; Jesse Brownell; and two other friends.

"My brother and my friend . . . they were dressed up as girls, and we were dressed up as guys, and we were trick-or-treating," McMullen said.

The suspects, driving a white, four-door Buick, passed the group and hurled insults. Although they were familiar with each other, the walkers and the boys in the vehicle were not engaged in any sort of ongoing feud.

The driver and his passenger drove past three or four times "in an intimidating style," said FHP spokesman Lt. Sterling King.

Then the driver made the fatal pass. The FHP said Burzynski drove south on Highlands, swerving to the road's east shoulder, where the trick-or-treat group was walking.

"We were out there. The kid came over the hill. It was me and Mark (Maillet) and Allison standing up there," Chris Elmore said. "He just came up the hill. We all scattered out of the way. Mark did a flip in mid-air, and Allison was completely gone. I could not find her."

McMullen and some others in the group weren't there when the teens were hit. They had walked away toward 6589 E Lynn St., where McMullen lives.

"We left. We came here and . . . were inside my house," McMullen said. "Then they (the other teens) were outside walking up the road, and the next thing you know they came running in saying (the car) hit Allison. We were like, "What are you talking about?' We ran outside, and there she was on the ground.

"They ran over Mark's foot. After they hit her, they went up the road, and we're pretty sure that they hit her again on the way back. They dragged her up the street. They hit her again, and then they (the driver and the passenger) were laughing," McMullen said.

Maillet, also 17, suffered minor injuries to his foot, authorities said.

The gunshots apparently were directed toward McMullen's house on Lynn Street. Law officers were searching that area for evidence Monday afternoon, and no motive was given for the shooting.

It's unclear what happened immediately after the incident. But by 1:30 a.m., Bonneville was behind the vehicle's wheel and driving northbound on U.S. 301 through Waldo, which is nationally recognized as a notorious "speed trap."

Lt. Ray White stopped the Buick and asked for the driver's identification and an explanation for their early-morning driving excursion. The boy had a restricted driver's license and a weak story: He said he was headed for a Halloween party.

All the while, White noticed a problem with Burzynski, the passenger. He was nervous, antsy, and "he kept putting his hand in his left pocket," Waldo police Chief A.W. Smith said.

The lieutenant asked the vehicle occupants if they were carrying anything they shouldn't be. "Yes," Burzynski said. "I have a pistol in my left front pocket."

The firearm was a .380-caliber pistol that, according to the chief, was used during the Inverness episode.

The lieutenant arrested Burzynski for carrying a concealed weapon. He brought the suspect and Bonneville back to the Police Department.

In Citrus County, law officers had issued a bulletin notifying colleagues to look for the suspects. Waldo police never got the word, but White, the lieutenant, had a hunch he should investigate further.

"Something was not right. We wanted to get to the bottom of it," the chief, a former Gainesville police homicide investigator and supervisor, said. "He took the extra step, and it was the right step.

The lieutenant called Inverness police, who put them in touch with the FHP. Before long, troopers were headed to Waldo.

Did the suspects make any incriminating statements while with Waldo police?

"Yes," the chief said. "But I can't tell you what it was."

Willard Pope, who supervises the Citrus branch of the state attorney's office, said his office has discretion to charge the suspects as adults or juveniles. However, a grand jury indictment would be necessary to charge anyone with first-degree murder.

While not indicating what charges he thought would be appropriate, Pope said it was likely the Citrus grand jury would review this case within three weeks. The grand jury could issue a murder charge or something less.

-- Times staff photographer Steve Hasel contributed to this report.

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