VALDOSTA -- A Lowndes County man charged with vehicular homicide in Florida was arrested over the weekend at his residence.

Mack Gardner, 34, was wanted in Sumter County, Fla., in connection with the June 2002 deaths of Don Diebel Jr. and Shane Kelly along the Florida Turnpike.

Diebel, a doctor, and Kelly, an off-duty firemen, were separately returning home when they stopped to aid victims of a vehicle accident. They were struck and killed by a tractor-trailer.

Sumter County investigators allege that Gardner was behind the wheel of the truck at the time. He did not stop at the scene, but continued along the turnpike.

Gardner was arrested Sunday morning at his residence near Inner Perimeter Road on local warrants for failure to appear in court. Capt. David Arnold said Florida officials had been searching for Gardner, but could not find him. He would occasionally stop near his home to visit his wife, and would head back on the road for another haul, before authorities were aware he was in town. On Sunday, he overslept, and deputies eventually found him hiding in the attic of his home, Arnold said.

Gardner is being held without bond in the Lowndes County Jail pending extradition to Florida. He faces two counts of vehicular homicide and four other charges.

Robert Johnson, another Lowndes County resident, was also in the semi at the time of the accident, but no charges have been filed against him, said Arnold.

News of Gardner's capture reached the Diebel and Kelly families on the same day the two men were honored for their actions by the Central Florida American Red Cross.



To contact reporter Bill Roberts, please call 244-3400, ext. 245.



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