Longform

The Miccosukee Tribe Keeps Quiet About a Series of Traffic Deaths

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Efforts to contact the young men on their cell phones, via visits to their homes, or through online correspondence have proven fruitless. They live just outside Miccosukee Village in the rural town of Ochopee, where the tribe members' houses are often gaudy affairs, expansive and columned. High-priced toys like new SUVs and sports cars, airboats, and golf carts for inter-reservation travel litter the lawns. Shared casino revenue from the Miccosukee Resort has made the citizenry rich: The $75 million-plus it brings in annually is split among tribe members.

When a New Times reporter knocked on the front door of Jared Tiger's slate-gray home, the lanky goateed young man, who stands five-foot-five and weighs 130 pounds, answered. Tattoos on his neck bear his initials and the word Shotgun in delicate script. He winced against the sunlight. "Yeah, I don't want to discuss anything," he said.

Asked if he was injured in the accident, Tiger answered "No, not much" before he shut the door.


About 7 p.m. on the chilly, clear night of February 18, Thomas Cypress, Chairman Billy Cypress' 54-year-old brother, was driving west along Tamiami Trail when his silver 2000 Toyota Tundra slammed into a red Chevrolet coupe traveling the other way. The driver and passenger of the Chevy, Robert and Paulette Kirkpatrick, retired husband-and-wife schoolteachers from Maryland on their way home from an arts festival in Naples, were both dead before ambulances arrived. The accident was less than a month after Furry's, its location less than a mile west.

Cypress was in the wrong lane as he tried to pass another car, according to a police report. He had a case of Budweiser beside him, and his blood-alcohol content was .249, cops say, more than three times the legal limit. He had been convicted of three previous DUIs and was driving with a suspended license.

After the accident, Will Furry was uncharacteristically irate. "They're killing people; they're killing people," he declared incredulously. "In one month, they've killed three people!"

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."

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."

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Gus Garcia-Roberts