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Chase suspect wife speaks

Posted at 6:51 PM, Apr 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-19 18:51:57-04

A high-speed chase Monday in Collier County led to a fiery crash which killed the driver. While that driver has yet to be identified, Tammy Zelske told Fox 4 that she's sure it's her husband Adam Zelske, 22.

"He was scared to go to prison," Tammy said Tuesday.

She said that's why her husband of almost 3 years sped off in his vehicle when deputies tried to serve him a warrant for probation violation. Adam had several drug-related charges going back to when he was 18. Tammy said there was some confusion over his address, between his home with her in Golden Gate and his grandparents' house in Lely. She said Adam thought his probation officer had the right one.

"And it turned out she didn't receive it, so he violated," she said.

When he fled the deputies serving the warrant early Monday morning, they didn't pursue him long due to safety concerns.

"He did send me a message...letting me know he was OK after the first chase," Tammy said.

But when his vehicle was spotted on Golden Gate Boulevard later that morning, a high-speed chase led police for about 20 miles to Oil Well Road, where waiting deputies deployed Stop Sticks. Zelske's car lost control, crashed into a tree and caught fire. The driver was killed.

"I think they could have blocked off the road instead of throwing out the Stop Sticks," Tammy said. "That was a little bit extreme to me, but that could be because I'm his wife and I did lose him."

Fox 4 requested information from the Collier County Sheriff's Office about the procedures for using stop sticks. We were sent their manual on vehicle pursuits which states that "Stop Sticks are intended to deflate the tires of a suspect's car in a controlled manner, either preventing or terminating a pursuit."

Tammy said she wished that the chase could have ended with a less tragic outcome.

"He was caring, funny...he would give you the shirt off of his back," she said of Adam.

A Web site for Stop Sticks explains that they are designed to gradually deflate a suspect's tires, and police agencies across the country use them frequently. So far, there is nothing to indicate that Stop Sticks were used inappropriately in this case.