Father crashes car, leaves injured children behind

Sarasota County deputies are searching for a man they say not only sped away from them, but crashed a car and left his own injured children behind.

The crash happened Saturday night at a 7-Eleven on Clark Road and Lockwood Ridge Road. Investigators say Maurice Betard, 28, was behind the wheel and has not been seen since then.

It all started Saturday night when a Sarasota deputy tried to stop the car driven by Betard. They didn't know his criminal record; just that he'd committed a traffic violation.

"Things happened very quickly there in a very short distance," said Capt. Charlie Thorpe. "As soon as he initiates his lights, the vehicle takes off the driver then ran the red light at Swift."

In the back seat were Betard's two young children, ages 1 and 5. In the front seat was another family member, pleading for Betard to be careful, for the kids' sake. That's the last thing he told deputies he remembers before the crash happened.

Surveillance video shows the impact. Then, you see Betard jump out of the car and hand one child off before bolting.

"'Forgive me,' was basically his statement, and 'I don't want to go back to jail,'" Thorpe said. "That was his reason for taking off."

"He must have been a track runner, because he was fast," said Anne Goldstein who witnessed the crash. "Took off like a shot. The other man got out of the car and just sat on the ground with his head between his hands."

Deputies say Betard left his own children, Maurice and Roman behind with serious injuries.

"It was crazy, leaving them in the car like that," Goldstein said.

While they recover, investigators are focused on finding Betard, perhaps to ask if staying out of jail was worth putting his children in the hospital.

Betard is from Hillsborough County. He's wanted there for aggravated battery on a pregnant person and has a record of eight felony charges with five convictions.

Now, he's looking at several more charges, including fleeing to elude, leaving the scene of an accident with injury and child neglect.