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.

Law enforcement's handling of the Thomas Cypress accident, however, was markedly different from Tatiana Furry's. The Florida Highway Patrol was first on the scene and never relinquished control. "We've had discussions with the tribe," says FHP spokesman Lt. Pat Santangelo, "and the directive that we have... instructs us to handle any type of a traffic fatality that happens on that stretch of road."

Cypress was charged with two counts of DUI manslaughter by Miami-Dade prosecutors. On March 24, a judge rejected his request to be released to an alcohol-abuse center "sensitive" to Native Americans, and he remains in jail. His trial will begin in late June.

In Furry's case, the Miccosukees have not cooperated with state prosecutors, who as of early April had interviewed the tribal policemen involved but hadn't received requested reports. An investigation into "the circumstances of the Furry accident and death" is "ongoing," says Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office spokesman Ed Griffith. "The SAO simply seeks to obtain the reports and evidence that every other police force in Dade supplies to the prosecutor's office... Since this was not a tribal incident occurring on tribal land, we do not believe that tribal sovereignty issues apply."

Tatiana Furry treated her beagle TJ like a son, says her mom Helene.
The Furry Family
Tatiana Furry treated her beagle TJ like a son, says her mom Helene.
Glades airboat captain Jesse Kennon witnessed the aftermath of her fatal accident.
C. Stiles
Glades airboat captain Jesse Kennon witnessed the aftermath of her fatal accident.

Will Furry knows little more now than he did a week after the accident. His lawyers have warned him that it may be years before the State's Attorney's Office reveals any findings.

He sat near his pool with his wife, Jamie, and a hyperactive Chihuahua puppy named Spartacus, a new entry to the family. The couple had recently returned from a weeklong vacation with family friends in San Francisco: "I had to take a break from all of this," says Will.

After acting as spokesman for the family, Will has started to relax a little. He can finally grieve for his sister. Today, he brings up her funeral at sea. The ashes were scattered from the Furrys' yacht off Key Biscayne, one of her favorite spots to dock. As they left port in Coconut Grove, "every boat around us started blasting their horns," recalls Will, his cheeks suddenly damp with tears at the simple memory. "She's going to be so missed on those docks."

Tatiana's parents have also retreated from Miami, heading in early April to Jamaica. Helene has started reading the Bible more often, and she tries to stay busy with household chores. "It doesn't make any difference, though," she says over the phone. "It goes with you everywhere you go. There's no closure. It's a mother's worst nightmare."

Helene prays for Kent Billie every night, "that he will get better and that he will find God," she says. She's unconcerned with who was at fault: "I want the truth. I hope for truth and justice, one way or another."

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