Did Sun-Sentinel Blow the Cops' Case in Porsche Hit-and-Run?
Locals were shocked when two British businessmen were killed in the early-morning hours of February 13. Craig Elford, 39, and Kenneth Watkinson, 48, were hit by a speeding Porsche as they walked along State Road A1A near Fort Lauderdale Beach. The driver fled, and the Porsche was later found abandoned near I-95.
In the ensuing days, there was a public hunger for information about the incident. The Porsche's owner, 34-year-old Ryan LeVin (pictured) of Chicago, told a reporter that he hadn't been driving but did not name anyone else as the guilty party. On internet comment boards, angry people from Florida to Illinois to the U.K. called for LeVin's head. They wondered why there was a delay in making an arrest and questioned whether the police were competent.
Only when the Sun-Sentinel's Jon Burstein obtained a copy of a search warrant and wrote a story on March 4 did the police's actions make more sense. Burstein's bombshell story revealed that LeVin told police he had switched cars with a friend named Derek W. Cook of Tamarac. Police confirmed that both men had driven the Porsche, but they were examining evidence to determine who was at the wheel at the time of the incident. They had been unable to locate Cook.
Now, a source close to the investigation says that the Sun-Sentinel never should have had access to the search warrant in the first place. It was sealed, and a clerk made an error by releasing it, the source explained. Police worried that the investigation would be compromised by the release of details. The source claims that police asked the Sun-Sentinel not to print the information but that the paper did anyway.
The incident raises questions about the police's right to keep information confidential versus the public's right to know. Some wonder why the police would fuss -- didn't the Sun-Sentinel story actually put the police in a better light by explaining their actions? Wouldn't it be good to publicize Cook's name, perhaps leading to tips about him? One officer, asked for comment, stated gruffly to the Juice, "If we want your [the media's] help, we'll ask for it."
LeVin remains jailed in Cook County, Illinois, until at least mid-April for a probation violation. Calling it an open case, police spokesman Sgt. Frank Sousa refused to comment on the ability to locate Cook or the current status of the investigation.