Suspects Named in Crash That Killed Soldier

Relatives tell hospitalized wife of husband's death
Copyright 2007: The News-Press

Florida Highway Patrol investigators Tuesday released the names of all three suspects in a crash that killed Army Staff Sgt. Danny Beougher in North Fort Myers this past weekend.

Meanwhile, relatives broke the news of Beougher's death to his wife, Lauren, who was critically injured in the accident and is recuperating at Lee Memorial Hospital. She was listed in fair condition Tuesday.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators will spend this week taking apart the 2006 Ford F350 pickup that crashed into Beougher's Jeep Cherokee on Saturday evening, said Sgt. Owen Keen, FHP traffic homicide supervisor.

The investigators, he said, will be looking for DNA and other forensic evidence to try and determine who was behind the wheel of the truck involved in the crash with Beougher's Jeep, Keen said.

This painstaking process -- which may take several weeks -- is necessary because the three suspects in the case are giving conflicting stories, he said.

Keen said the primary suspect continues to be Ashley Brooke East, 25.

East, the investigator said, does not have a valid driver's license.

A passenger, Kesha Lee Stewart, 33, of Cape Coral -- who was treated for injuries and released from Lee Memorial Hospital -- said East was driving and they had been drinking beer before the accident.

After the crash, East said '"We've got to get out of here,"' Stewart recalled Tuesday while recuperating from ankle and hand injuries at her sister's house in Cape Coral.

On the night of the crash, a driver told officers that he saw East walking along a street nearby and that she offered him $10 for a ride, Keen said.

The man refused and found deputies at the crash scene who went and picked up East and took her to the hospital to be treated for scrapes and bruises, Keen said.

Samples of blood were taken from both women to test for alcohol content, Keen said. East, Keen said, told investigators that her boyfriend, Michael Norman of Cape Coral, who owns the truck, was driving the pickup at the time of the crash.

Investigators don't believe he was driving because he was found by officers at home and did not have any visible injuries, Keen said.

However, he isn't being entirely ruled out either until all the evidence is collected, the sergeant said.

Norman may be charged for withholding information in the case, Keen said.

Neither Norman nor East could be reached for comment.

Stewart, who also does not have a valid driver's license, isn't being ruled out as a suspect either, Keen said.

She remains adamant that East was driving. "There's no evidence pointing to me whatsoever," Stewart said.

She said that she helped East and two others move furniture from one home Norman owns to another house of his that day.

The four, she said, shared a 12-pack of beer.

Stewart said, however, that East didn't appear to be drunk.

That evening, they stopped for a red light and when the light turned green, the truck fishtailed because the pavement was wet from rain, Stewart said.

East overcompensated and the truck went out of control and crashed, Stewart said. "I just remember crashing into some trees. I wasn't even aware of the other vehicle," Stewart said.

She said she then heard East saying they had to get away.

"I remember seeing her going over a hill," Stewart said.

Stewart said officers at the hospital told her someone died in the crash. "I just went numb. I cried and cried. I haven't slept since it happened," she said.

Stewart said she prays for Beougher's family every day. "My wounds will heal. I don't think theirs ever will," she said.

"Our thought and prayers continue to be with the family of Lauren and Danny as we await the results of the police investigation," said P.J. Scheiner, an attorney for Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, which is representing the victim's relatives.

A trust fund has been established to help defray Lauren Beougher's medical and other expenses.

Anyone wishing to help may send donations to Northern Trust Bank, 8060 College Parkway, Fort Myers, 33919. Checks should be made payable to the Lauren Beougher Trust.

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