Lawyer questions details of St. Pete pond crash

Posted at 2:28 PM, Apr 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-12 08:22:30-04
A lawyer says inconsistencies exist in law enforcement’s investigation into a St. Petersburg crash that left three girls dead.
Dominique Battle, 16, Ashaunti Butler, 15, and LaNiya Miller, 15, were killed after crashing a vehicle into a pond March 31 on at Royal Palm Cemetery.
Police said the vehicle they drove had been stolen.
Lawyer Michele Whitfield, who represents Natasha Winkler, the mother of LaNiya Miller, said her independent investigation had raised questions about the account provided by law enforcement.
“As I read the reports, I just saw this theme of inconsistencies,” Whitfield said at a news conference Monday. “We saw that the story that the law enforcement officials were providing to the media and the public, really, did not match the scene.”
Watch the full news conference in the player above
Whitfield questioned the details law enforcement gave about the path the vehicle traveled before it was found in the pond. She also said the story of the vehicle’s theft hadn’t been “properly vetted.”
“There’s inconsistencies that need to be addressed, and we’re asking for those answers to come,” she said.
LaNiya Miller had once been accused of stealing a vehicle, Whitfield said, but the charges were dismissed. The teenager wanted to become a lawyer after her experience with the criminal justice system.
Lawyer Will Anderson, who also spoke at the news conference and is involved in the lawyers’ investigation, called law enforcement’s handling of the case a “rush to judgment” and “smear campaign.”
Natasha Winkler said her daughter was three weeks from her 16th birthday when she died and was working toward getting her driver’s license.
“My daughter was not perfect. What 15-year-old is? LaNiya was my oldest child and a great big sister to her 6-year-old brother. She should not be remembered as a thief because that’s not who she was. If everyone walked around with their mistakes stamped on them, I’m sure you would see worse things.”