Chaos on I-95: Troubled relationship ends in crashes, death


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In a photograph from three months ago, Hugo Steven Selva and Nicole Marie Novak smile for the camera with their newborn daughter. An aerial photograph from Wednesday shows a car, smashed and burned, on Interstate 95 near Lantana Road. 

Moments earlier, authorities say, Hugo shot Nicole in the head and shoved her, dying, into an SUV before racing the wrong way down Interstate 95 and causing three head-on crashes. A deputy then shot him dead.

>>EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS: The mayhem that shut down I-95

The dramatic and public deaths of the couple ended what were two troubled lives. Selva, 22, shows no criminal record in Florida, but in December 2016, his grandmother said in court documents that he’d tried to kill her. And Novak, 26, spent more than two years in state prison on drug and burglary convictions. 

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday identified Novak and Selva, and also the deputy who shot Selva. The sheriff’s office said Connor Haugh, 35, has been with the department since April 27, 2016, and is assigned to the Lake Worth district. Before that, he had been with Boynton Beach police since 2005.

>>RELATED: Cellphone video captures I-95 mayhem

Also Thursday, sources said Boca Raton police now are not ruling out whether Selva also is linked to Wednesday morning’s fatal shooting of a Boca Raton man on Interstate 95 near Clint Moore Road. They had said Wednesday they did not believe there was a connection. 

In a news release Thursday afternoon, police would say only that “detectives are also looking at other incidents and crimes to determine if there are any connections to this case.” Authorities already have said they believe Selva is the person who shot a man Tuesday afternoon in West Palm Beach and shot another man early Wednesday in Boynton Beach.

In identifying Selva and Novak Thursday, the sheriff’s office did not provide hometowns or other information. But a 1995 birth announcement in The Palm Beach Post said Selva was born in Boynton Beach. And a Facebook page for him said he had attended Park Vista High School in suburban Boynton Beach. 

On Thursday, a woman who answered a phone listed for a relative of Selva’s said, “She’s an elderly woman. She had nothing to do with this,” and told a reporter if he had other questions, he should talk to police.

Their histories

Novak was arrested six times between 2011 and 2012 —by Titusville police, Cocoa police, Melbourne police and the Brevard County Sheriiff’s Office — on charges ranging from drug possession to burglary and grand theft, according to records of the FDLE and the Florida Department of Corrections. She was imprisoned from January 2014 to May 2016. 

Selva’s father Steven, a local television cameraman, died in 2008, his obituary said.  

Robert Cecere, who knew Hugo Selva’s mother since 1987 and knew the man all his life, said he spoke to the mother Wednesday night and “she is beyond devastated. She has no words. She just cried.”  

Cecere said he never met Nicole Novak. 

Hugo Selva, he said, “was too smart for school. He was always the funny guy. Good for a laugh. Loved my massage work and always made sure to get a treatment if I was in town.”  

He said he “can’t elaborate on how he changed. I want to remain positive. He was a new dad and there are a lot of stresses when you’re a young and new dad.”

Havoc Wednesday on I-95 

Authorities said the events leading to Wednesday’s chase and shooting on I-95 began when Selva shot Novak in the head at a shopping center in the 1600 block of South Dixie Highway in Lake Worth, just north of Lantana. When county Fire Rescue workers arrived, the woman was gone; people told them she had been driven to a hospital. But she was in the car with Selva. 

About 15 minutes later, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said Wednesday, agencies began getting calls that a black SUV was racing south in the breakdown lane of northbound I-95. His car then got into three crashes with six to eight other vehicles, some of them head-on, near Lantana Road. 

As it came to a stop, deputies and a Florida Highway Patrol trooper confronted Selva. A trooper deployed a Taser but it either didn’t work or had no effect on him. The deputy then shot Selva. 

Deputies pulled Novak from the burning car, but she was dead, the sheriff’s office has said. 

Bradshaw said Wednesday Haugh “said he was in fear of his life and the life of the trooper and opened fire.” 

Haugh is on paid administrative leave, which is standard following shootings. The sheriff’s office said Thursday no other deputy fired a weapon. PBSO also said the investigation has been turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. In February 2017, PBSO signed a deal with FDLE to handle all deputy-involved shootings. 

Hours after the incident, the sheriff’s office posted a photo of Selva’s gun. Sheriff’s spokesman Eric Davis said Thursday the gun was removed from the car after the shooting. He said the agency will not yet divulge how many shots were fired by the deputy, how many rounds struck Selva and where on his body Selva was hit, saying that all were part of the investigation. 

The agency also has yet to provide the names and medical conditions of two drivers who were hospitalized after their cars were struck or to which hospital they’d been taken. FHP also has not identified the trooper who deployed his Taser. 

The crash closed northbound lanes of I-95 for more than six hours between Lake Worth and Boynton Beach.

» LOOK: People turn to social media after traffic chaos, shootings on I-95 

In the two other shootings authorities are believed linked to Selva, West Palm Beach have not identified the victim in their incident, and Boynton Beach police Thursday identified the victim in their case as Anthony Fonti, 21, of Boynton Beach. Boynton Beach police spokeswoman Stephanie Slater said Thursday detectives “still have more work to do to 100 percent confirm the connection.” 

No agencies have said so far how they were able to link Selva to the other two shootings.

Staff writers Olivia Hitchcock, Julius Whigham II, Hannah Winston, Mike Stucka and Chelsea Todaro and staff researcher Melanie Mena contributed to this story.



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