Florida

Mom aims head-on at a tanker to kill herself, sons. When truck dodges, she doubles back

Melissa Gail Mack’s booking photo on Aug. 16, 2019. She is being held in Alachua County Jail on three charges of premeditated attempted homicide.
Melissa Gail Mack’s booking photo on Aug. 16, 2019. She is being held in Alachua County Jail on three charges of premeditated attempted homicide. Gainesville Police Department

Police say a Gainesville, Florida, mom of two young boys told a friend she was going to kill herself and her sons by crashing her car with everyone inside.

According to police, she told her friend of 20 years it was “God’s will” and that she was “afraid but nothing could be done to change the outcome.”

She told her friend to say goodbye to her and the two boys.

Later that day, on Friday afternoon, Gainesville police say that Melissa Gail Mack tried to made good on her threat by loading her children, ages 4 and 6, into her van.

According to the police report, Mack left the northbound lanes of US-441, switched to a southbound lane, and aimed to hit a tanker truck head-on, the Gainesville Sun and WCJB first reported.

The 2006 tanker truck, driven by Paul Dale Hackbarth, was carrying 330 gallons of gasoline.

When Hackbarth swerved to avoid a crash with Mack’s van on US-441, police say Mack, 48, doubled back with a U-turn, hit the gas pedal, and slammed into the tanker’s rear.

The impact set the van’s engine ablaze, shattered the front and back windows, and trapped Mack and her two children inside.

According to the police report, two witnesses were able to put out the fire and pull everyone out of the van.

The children were medically cleared by Shands Hospital — “neither sustained any visible injuries” the arrest report said.

The two boys were released to the Department of Children & Families.

“They both were very upset by the incident,” officers wrote on the report.

Mack was charged with three counts of premeditated attempted homicide in the first degree — one for each victim, her two boys and the truck driver. The charges are a capital felony, according to court records.

Mack is being held at the Alachua County Jail on a total bond of $900,000.

Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
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