Twenty months after a mysterious car accident near Miccosukee Indian land claimed the life of Coconut Grove woman Tatiana Furry, the State Atorney's Office has concluded its investigation and released a shocker.
According to an autopsy report, Furry had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .32, four times the legal limit.
Kent Billie, the politically connected tribe member apparently at the wheel of the other vehicle, will not be charged with a crime, despite evidence he was speeding and had marijuana and Xanax in his system.
A Miccosukee-hired lawyer representing the four men in the car touts Furry's BAC as vindication. "My reaction is: I told you so," says Michael Tein, who claimed to have evidence that Furry was drinking at Miccosukee Resort & Gaming before the accident. "I told you so, people who rushed to an ugly judgment with ugly prejudices against Miccosukee Indian people. We have said from the beginning that these four boys were innocent."
The circumstances surrounding the January 2009 Tamiami Trail accident have been muddied and delayed by tribal politics, as recounted in New Times' feature story "Renegade Road." Miccosukee police, who handled the accident despite the fact that it was not on tribal land, withheld information from state investigators and Furry's family.
Only a leaked police report identified Billie, the then-tribe chairman Billy Cypress's 20-year-old grandson who was already facing felony charges for speeding with a bag of cocaine and an open bottle of Jack Daniel's in his car, as the crash's other driver. The three apparent passengers -- Miccosukee tribe members Clifton Huggins, Travis Osceola, and Jared Tiger -- claimed sovereignty in denying a subpoena. They offered to testify in exchange for immunity, according to a state attorney's close-out memo, but never ended up cooperating.
Piecing together the accident through photographs, state investigators came to the "inescapable conclusion" that Furry's Nissan Frontier, traveling westbound, crossed the center lane to collide with Billie's Ford Expedition.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue technicians smelled alcohol on Billie's breath at the accident scene. But Miccosukee PD Officer Russell Barnes declined to have Billie's blood drawn "because he did not believe he had legal authority," he later told investigators -- contradicting his claim, in a police report, that the paramedics refused to draw blood because Billie was in critical condition.
Blood drawn at the hospital, according to the memo, showed a BAC of .04 and tested positive for the drugs. The data recorder in Billie's truck revealed he was speeding "in excess of 80 mph just before the collision" -- well above the posted speed limit of 55.
Because Furry was in the wrong lane, Assistant State Attorney David Gilbert recommended against a charge of vehicular homicide, and the one-year statute of limitations for a reckless driving or speeding infraction had expired.
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"Tragically, it turns out she was the culprit in her own demise," says attorney Tein, who still denies there's any evidence Billie was driving his truck. "This is a horrible, horrible case, but she almost killed those four boys."
A dismayed Will Furry, Tatiana's brother, admitted he was "surprised" to learn she had apparently been drinking. But "the situation definitely could have been handled in a much better way," he says. "There's more to the story. If there was nothing to hide, why did they refuse to cooperate?"
We've embedded the close-out memo, which is dated from April but has only now been released.