Alcohol, trouble and Dennis Sprayberry have been fellow travelers for many of his 19 years. Last week was no exception when a 17-year-old girl joined him on the roof of a moving vehicle and was seriously injured when she fell off.
The incident drew public attention not only because of the injuries Liz Roberts suffered – a life-threatening cerebral hemorrhage and extensive “road rash” – but because a passer-by who tried to help her was severely beaten by one or more of her companions. Making matters worse, Roberts’ friends took two hours to get her to a hospital.
In the week since the accident, new details have emerged that begin to answer some of the questions about what happened that night. Sprayberry and his friends had been drinking before the accident, the driver was deaf and didn’t hear pleas to stop, and the Good Samaritan was acting erratically.
Although accounts of the alleged assault vary, Sprayberry and Robert M. Dean, the Good Samaritan, agree on one fact: Dean got into the truck with the friends, and that didn’t sit well with them.
“God, it was a stupid mistake, man, but none of the argument with the guy was about going to the hospital,” Sprayberry said. “The argument was that he wasn’t coming with us.”
Dean, 42, was treated and released at Sacred Heart Medical Center. Roberts also was treated at Sacred Heart for internal injuries. She has since been released.
Dean suffered a serious gash on his left eyebrow when 17-year-old David Ellis allegedly struck him in the face with a beer bottle.
Ellis has been charged in Spokane County Juvenile Court with second-degree assault. He declined a Spokesman-Review request for an interview. No one else has been charged so far.
Sprayberry said he and Ellis and the driver of their vehicle, 21-year-old Willie R. Sprayberry, are cousins – each from a different family. He said Liz Roberts is the older sister of Ellis’ girlfriend, Pamela Roberts. The three cousins went to Pamela’s home, where Ellis hoped she would join them, Dennis Sprayberry said.
Pamela couldn’t come, so Liz Roberts joined them instead, Sprayberry said.
Efforts to contact Willie Sprayberry were unsuccessful. The Roberts family declined a request for an interview.
Dennis Sprayberry said he and the three others went to a park and drank beer for three hours before they resumed driving Willie Sprayberry’s Ford Explorer. He said they probably all were drunk when the accident and alleged assault happened about 2 a.m. near the corner of Helena and DeSmet.
“I started to get crazy, and I climbed out the window,” Dennis Sprayberry said.
About 30 seconds later, he said. Roberts joined him on the roof of the moving Ford Explorer.
“I was like, ‘Liz, no, no, no,’ and she was like, ‘No, I’m fine,’ ” Sprayberry said.
Then, he said, Willie Sprayberry “punched the gas” and began swerving left and right to give them a thrill.
“It just scared the living daylights out of me,” Dennis Sprayberry said.
Finally, he said, he realized that the next swerve likely would throw him or Roberts off the vehicle, depending on which way it turned.
“She just went flying off, and I went, ‘Oh, my God,’ and started pounding on the window,” Sprayberry said.
But he said Willie Sprayberry is deaf, and the Explorer traveled most of a block before stopping.
“We got back there and some guy had come running, some guy just walking out of the little woody area right there,” Sprayberry said.
That was Dean, who told The Spokesman-Review he heard a girl screaming, and thought it looked as though she had been thrown out of the vehicle instead of off it when the Explorer did a “240-degree” spin.
“I could hear her hit the ground, it was such a loud thud, and then she rolled,” Dean said.
He claimed the girl’s companions were standing around her, tossing cigarette butts at her, laughing at her and calling her vulgar names when he arrived – not showing the concern Sprayberry described.
Sprayberry said Dean was verbally abusive and “a scary person.”
“We would have taken it more easily, but he was totally aggressive to all of us, cussing us out,” Sprayberry said, adding that Dean appeared to be high on drugs.
“I can practically guarantee that,” Sprayberry said. “I’ve experienced street drugs myself.”
Dean said he was “completely, 100 percent normal” that night, but he made several claims during an interview this week that defy reason. For example, he said he has an extensive military background, specializing in “extrasensory perception espionage and psychotronic warfare.”
“What I do with the extrasensory perception espionage is that I put the conscious mind asleep, and I go directly into the subconscious mind,” Dean said in a Monday interview. “At that point, the thoughts start coming in at more than 400 million thoughts per second. I begin the interrogation at that point.”
As for “psychotronic warfare,” he said he has learned to “turn myself into what they call a particle beam weapon and a photon weapon.”
Just before he came to Roberts’ aid on the night of the accident and subsequent attack, Dean said he had been at a party – actually “sort of a Gothic thing” downtown – but he hadn’t been drinking or taking drugs. He said the Gothic event appealed to him because one of the several doctoral degrees he claims to hold is in religion.
As he spoke, he was taking a break from his job with a roof-stripping and tree-trimming crew on a job near the accident scene.
Dean and Sprayberry agree on one thing: Dean climbed into the Explorer with Roberts and refused to leave.
Dean said that was because Roberts’ companions said they didn’t intend to take her to a hospital, and “I said I had a problem with that.”
Accounts of the fight that followed differ widely. According to Dean, the fight was preceded by “some kind of a blinding light” that he can’t explain. He said at least two young men threw punches at him before one of them knocked him down with a beer bottle. That was followed by assaults with knives, baseball bats and a chain, Dean claimed.
Sprayberry’s version is that Ellis ordered Dean out of the Explorer, and Dean came out swinging his fists. Ellis was losing the fight, and Sprayberry tried to break it up. Dean turned on Sprayberry and fell on his buttocks when Sprayberry pushed him back.
“He kind of lost his footing,” Sprayberry said. “He fell back onto his rump, and that’s when David somehow got around me and just hit him in the face and broke the beer bottle on his head.”
Then, Sprayberry said, Dean grabbed a leg of his baggy pants. Sprayberry said he was trying to pull free when Ellis kicked Dean.
Ellis kicked several times, but appeared to connect only once, Sprayberry said. He said he grabbed Ellis and ordered him to get into the Explorer.
Sprayberry said he was grateful for Dean’s help, “but his help should have gone only so far. He was just acting like he was the dad of one of us.”
Whatever resolve the group may have had to take Roberts to a hospital dissolved in the vehicle. Willie Sprayberry refused to go because he was drunk, Dennis Sprayberry said. Roberts, who was vomiting but lucid, didn’t want to go, either, he said.
“We were kind of respecting her decision,” Sprayberry said. “She would have gotten in a lot of trouble if her mom had found out.”
So they drove to a friend’s house near Northwest Boulevard and Ash, and chaos prevailed for two hours: “Believe me, nobody was in agreement with nobody. We were all arguing.”
Roberts lay on a couch, and her condition worsened.
“I was crying … by then because I was really scared,” Sprayberry said. “She didn’t look very good.”
He said he talked to Roberts and tried to keep her conscious, and she still didn’t want to go to a hospital.
Finally, Sprayberry said, “I’ll never forget it: I looked at her, and one of her eyes just went crooked. I just broke down then.”
But, distressed by all he had seen that night, he said he went for a walk. It was Ellis who finally insisted on taking her to Sacred Heart, Sprayberry said.
“I left before they even took her to the hospital,” he said.
Sprayberry said he’s ashamed and sorry about that, sorry about the attack on Dean, sorry about everything that happened that night.
“For us not to bring her directly to the hospital was just retarded,” he said. “It was just stupid of us. There’s no way to explain it. “Me, I’m just done drinking. Period.”