Houston & Peach

Driver who led Houston County deputy on high-speed chase had a 4-year-old in backseat

Dennis Cagliastro
Dennis Cagliastro

A driver who led a Houston County sheriff’s deputy on a brief high-speed chase before crashing had a 4-year-old unrestrained in the backseat.

The deputy didn’t know the child was in the sedan until after the chase, said Houston County sheriff’s Capt. Jon Holland.

The child was placed in protective custody by the state Division of Family and Children Services, and the driver and an adult passenger were arrested, Holland said.

No one was hurt, Holland said.

Dennis Cagliastro, 40, of Orlando, Florida, was charged with fleeing and attempting to elude and first-degree cruelty to children, both felonies. Cagliastro also was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, open container, marijuana possession, child restraint violation and a slew of other misdemeanor traffic offenses.

About 1:45 p.m., Ronald Brainard with the Houston County Sheriff’s Department pulled over a Mercedes-Benz C300 southbound on Interstate 75 at Mile Marker 129 for a possible tint violation. As Brainard walked to the sedan, its driver, later identified as Cagliastro, sped off and a pursuit ensued, Holland said.

Cagliastro drove the sedan off the interstate to Ga. 26 west to U.S. 41 north to Perry Parkway east before trying to get back on I-75 and crashing near Mile Marker 134, according to the sheriff’s incident report.

Methamphetamine, ecstasy and marijuana were found during a search of the sedan, the report said.

Passenger Jason Dawson, 35, of Gainesville, Florida, was charged with two counts of Schedule I-II drugs and misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Speeds reached 100 miles per hour during the chase, Holland said.