A tip led to the discovery of a silver Jaguar that hit a Villager on a bicycle and fled the scene of the crash.
Ken Nevers, 61, of the Village of Fenney, was bicycling on the morning of Nov. 3 in the multi-modal lane on Hillsborough Trail near the Manatee Recreation Center when he suffered severe head trauma including memory loss, bruised lungs, a broken rib, and a fractured shoulder along with lacerations on his face and head after being hit by the Jaguar.
The Florida Highway Patrol immediately began searching for clues, collecting surveillance images from Community Watch that showed pictures of the car and its driver. Within hours, FHP reached out through the media, seeking help from the public.
FHP received a tip on Thursday which led to 3089 Glenwood Place in the Village of Glenbrook. An investigator went to the home on Friday, but was unsuccessful in locating anyone at the residence.
The investigator returned to the residence on Sunday and spoke with an occupant of the home, 46-year-old Tara Malara, who in 2017 was at the wheel of a Buick that hit a 79-year-old Villager’s golf cart in the Village of Glenbrook. He died a week later. At the time, Malara was accompanied by a young child and she was on probation for a drug offense. She was not charged in the crash. Earlier this year, Malara was arrested on the suspicion she was selling drugs.
Malara said the owner of the Jaguar, 59-year-old William Joseph Croop of Orange Springs, told her he’d hit a pole and the crash had damaged his vehicle. She said Croop had likely gone to the Fish Games internet cafe in Belleview. FHP contacted Fish Games, but Croop was not there. A security officer indicated he’d call the investigator if the Jaguar was spotted. At 1:32 p.m. Sunday, the security officer contacted the investigator to tell him that moments earlier the Jaguar had departed from the parking lot. An alert was issued and at 2:25 p.m., another trooper stopped the Jaguar.
The FHP investigator arrived on the scene and Croop agreed to speak with him.
Croop said on the morning of Nov. 3 he left his “friend” Tara Malara’s home in the Village of Glenbrook and began driving through The Villages. He said he was “sleep driving” down Hillsborough Trail when he “saw a brown object in front of him and struck it,” according to the FHP arrest report. After striking the object, he said it “flew up and struck his windshield.” He said he thought he’d hit a pole. Croop said he went back to “sleep driving” and thought he was “just clearing the path,” driving over curbs and grass for other vehicles on the roadway.
The trooper asked Croop if he’d considered calling 911 to report the crash. He said he did not.
“He said that when he was talking with some friends about it they advised it looked like a body hit the windshield, but (Croop) was adamant that he struck a pole,” the investigator wrote in the arrest report.
Croop was booked late Sunday afternoon at the Sumter County Detention Center on charges of hit and run, drug possession and possession of drug equipment. He is being held without bond.
He has previously served time on drug, fraud and trespassing charges.
In 2019, Croop was ticketed on a charge of following too closely. He was fined $166.
Croop had been arrested in 2018 after attempting to push a cart full of stolen merchandise out of the Wal-Mart in Summerfield. The prosecutor’s office wound up dropping the case.