The Miccosukee Tribe Keeps Quiet About a Series of Traffic Deaths

A woman perishes in a collision with an Indian leader's kin. Her family cries cover-up.

In 1996, just before his daughter's senior year, Jack took a new position in Miami as president of SureCredit USA Home Loans. After a year at Palmetto High School, Tatiana attended Santa Fe College in Gainesville. She quit college after two years and moved back to Miami. She found her passion in 2008 doing side work aboard a University of Miami research boat. Mom predicted Tatiana would've spent her working life at sea.

Even as an adult, she played soccer on an amateur team called Miami Storm in Ken­dall's Thompson Park. Tatiana was single and maternally attached to her peach-and-white beagle, TJ. "That was her kid," says Lisette Arancibia, who worked with Tatiana at Jack's mortgage business. "She didn't want to go anywhere that she couldn't bring TJ along."

Tatiana turned 31 on January 17, and three days later, she may have made a late-night trip to the casino.

"I know that they've lied to us," Tatiana's brother Will says of Miccosukee Police.
The Furry Family
"I know that they've lied to us," Tatiana's brother Will says of Miccosukee Police.

She sometimes played bingo or slots with Arancibia. Or Tatiana worked the poker room, a no-frills, smoke-clogged den where hard-boiled, mostly male players might spend days on end. "I wouldn't have sat there by myself," says Arancibia, "but she was never intimidated by anything."

Will Furry says it's "not shocking" that his sister might've made an impulsive late-night trip to the casino, but why she would've been almost five miles west of it is a "complete mystery," he says.

"I don't know what happened, which makes it really tough to deal with," Arancibia says. "I don't understand the silence."

Arancibia will most likely never make another trip to the casino. She tries to avoid being reminded of Tatiana's absence. "I think of her like she's gone on a trip," she confides. "I let myself believe that she's gone to visit California, or maybe... doing something that made her happy."

In mid-March, nearly two months after Tatiana's death, an editor at the Miami Herald received an envelope without a return address, according to an account given to Will Furry by Herald reporter David Ovalle. Inside was what appeared to be a Miccosukee police report on the fatal accident, as well as six computer-printed photographs taken at the scene. Also included was a letter slamming the tribe's police department, apparently written by a disgruntled officer. Even though they weren't officially verified, the Herald published the report and the photos. The letter was withheld.

If genuine, the documents cast some light on the other people involved in the accident, all of them young Miccosukee men: 18-year-olds Clifton Huggins III and Travis Osceola; Jared Tiger, 23; and Billy Cypress' grandson, Kent Billie, 20.

The reports also contradict Miccosukee officer Russell Barnes' assertion to the Furrys that there were two people in the other car. Indeed, Miccosukee attorney Lewis confirms that the four men were "involved" in the accident.

Tribal Officer Abner Rodriguez arrived at the scene at 4:12 a.m., according to the report, and was immediately approached by Huggins and Osceola. "We were traveling east to go fuel up at Dade Corners," Osceola told the officer, referring to a gas station located cater-cornered from the Miccosukee casino at Krome Avenue. "And we saw this pickup truck heading straight at us." (Rodriguez didn't return a call seeking comment.)

Rodriguez noted a "strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from Clifton Huggins' breath."

The cop made his way to the overturned Expedition, where he found two people still inside. The apparent driver, Billie, was splayed in the center of the truck, "unresponsive" but alive. Tiger was crawling through a blown-out rear window. Rodriguez helped him out as two more tribal cops arrived.

Turning to the Nissan, Rodriguez found Tatiana Furry in the "rear passenger side seated in a crouched position." There were no vital signs. When a Miami-Dade squad car arrived, Huggins was apparently perturbed. He remarked, "Ah man, they're not going to handle this and fuck with us are they?" according to the report.

As Huggins was treated by paramedics for a "minor laceration to his left arm," two Miami-Dade Fire Rescue choppers arrived and airlifted Billie and Tiger.

The Herald took the leak one controversial step further, submitting the materials to local accident-analysis expert William J. Fogarty, who determined that "Furry's Nissan Frontier crossed over the median and into the Ford," causing the wreck. But one of Fogarty's colleagues, Miles Moss, notes that far more rigorous testimony would be required in court. He calls the conclusion "speculation."

Attorney Lewis says the theory that Furry was at fault is "in line with my own findings." He claims to have "hard, concrete evidence" that Furry had spent the night drinking heavily at the casino and had become "unruly... She was out at the hotel for several hours, gambling and drinking throughout. Unfortunately, she had been asked to leave, but she got in her car despite the fact that security tried to call her a taxi."

Lewis does not elaborate on the source of his findings. As per county policy, Tatiana's blood was drawn at the Miami-Dade medical examiner's office, but those results have not been made public.

The lawyer attempts to win sympathy for his clients. "They're four young boys, two of whom have suffered serious injuries, one of which was life-threatening," Lewis laments. "These are kids who were out playing computer games and videogames before this accident occurred."

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