Sunday, April 11, 2010

He was not going to let another tragedy happen

By Todd Ruger

Published: Friday, April 2, 2010 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 9:20 p.m.

SARASOTA - Tim Roe had stopped his work pickup at a red light on U.S. 41, windows rolled down, when he made eye contact with the woman in the passenger seat in the car next to him.

"Please help me, help me," the woman said to him. She tried to get out of the car, but the man behind the wheel elbowed her in the face and held her back.

The man saw Roe grab a cell phone. Then the Dodge Shadow sped off through the red light.

With memories of the Carlie Brucia and Denise Lee murders on his mind, as well as other abductions in the news, Roe decided he had to act.

So he took off after them.

"I've heard so many of these ending in tragedy," Roe said, including when a man abducted 11-year-old Carlie from the car wash he frequently drove past. "I thought to myself, 'If I ever see that myself, I'll deal with it.'"

The Bradenton landscaper floored the accelerator in his Chevy Cheyenne to keep up as the two vehicles sped south on U.S. 41 from University Parkway. He dialed 911.

Traffic was light at 8 a.m. on that Saturday in March of 2009. Even going 80 mph and blowing through red lights, Roe, 49, did not think about stopping.

"If I had seen on the news he had killed her, I don't think I could have slept, knowing I could have stopped it," Roe said in his native British accent. "You have to go on the theory he's going to hurt her."

The suspect car suddenly turned left on Myrtle Street; Roe missed the turn, but cut through a Winn-Dixie parking lot and somehow ended up behind the car on Myrtle. Soon, a Sarasota police car pulled behind Roe's truck.

Roe told the 911 dispatcher that if the officer tried to stop him, he was not going to pull over. The dispatcher said the officer was aware of the situation and was just following to help.

When the Dodge reached U.S. 301, it lost control, and Roe pulled his truck in front, while the officer trapped the Dodge from behind.

The driver of the Dodge, Sergio Ocampos, 25, was then arrested on a false imprisonment charge.

The woman got out of the car and ran over to Roe and gave him a hug.

"She wouldn't let go, and just said, 'Thank you, thank you, thank you,'" Roe said. He was shaking himself from the adrenaline.

Ocampos was upset because the woman, his then-27-year-old girlfriend, had just told him she was pregnant and he was the father, said Assistant State Attorney Jason Miller.

It turned to be a false positive on a home pregnancy test.

Ocampos spent a year in jail before pleading guilty to the imprisonment charge this week, Miller said.

He will be deported to Honduras because of the conviction.

Roe's actions and his willingness to testify -- another witness could not be found -- basically made him a hero in this case, Miller said.

"If it wasn't for him, it might not have been a case and could have had a much more tragic ending," Miller said.

Roe, revisiting the spot of the arrest Thursday, said the police did a great job. And he said he just did what he would want anyone to do if his daughters were in trouble.

"I just did what you're supposed to do," Roe said. "You can replace a truck, but you can't replace a woman's life."