Jacksonville on cross-country cab ride gets mental evaluation

Posted: Friday, January 25, 2002

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- A woman taking a round-trip taxi cab ride from Jacksonville to Alaska has been stopped by police in Northern California for a mental evaluation.

Patricia Agness was detained Monday by police after she caused a disturbance at a motel in Fort Bragg, Calif., several hours south of Oregon.

Agness left Jacksonville last week for her 10,000-mile trip with the intention of riding a taxicab 10,000 miles to Juneau, Alaska. She hired two cabbies to drive 8-hour shifts on her trek from Florida through Texas and up the California coast. They planned to continue north to Juneau and return through the Midwest with stops in Minneapolis and Nashville, Tenn.

However, when they checked into a motel Monday evening, Agness insisted on staying in the lobby instead of her room, police said. The motel manager called the police.

''Police went and talked to her and she was making some unusual statements, so we determined she was in need of mental health evaluation,'' said Fort Bragg interim Police Chief Bruce Cumming.

California police can hold people up to 72 hours for a mental health evaluation if they are considered gravely disabled or a danger to themselves or others.

Officials at the Mendocino County Health Department would not comment.

Agness switched cab companies in Buellton, Calif., when her original cabbies said she wanted to shorten the planned driving breaks.

The road-weary drivers, Joe Gattuso and Safdar Hussein, had been taking eight-hour shifts behind the wheel since leaving Jan. 16 and stopped in Buellton with the intention of taking showers and getting some sleep. But three hours after their arrival, Agness wanted to get back on the road.

''We hardly got any sleep,'' Gattuso said.

She then hired George Steele, who owns United Cab Co., after arriving in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Steele, a former police officer in Washington, D.C., and in his native Glasgow, Scotland, drove Agness as far as the motel in Fort Bragg.

''I had no idea what I was dealing with,'' Steele said Wednesday. ''Initially, I was supposed to pick her up in San Luis Obispo at 10 a.m. Monday, but at 5:30 a.m. she said she needed to leave right away. I hadn't had any sleep and neither had she.''

''She is a sweet and very nice lady, but I also started to realize as the conversation went on that she was not as logical a thinker as I would like her to be,'' Steele said.

Although Steele said he frequently drives celebrities around in limousines in his business, he'd never had a hire quite like this before in his life.

''I'm sorry it didn't work out, because I would have enjoyed taking her to Alaska and all the way back to Jacksonville,'' he said.

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