Orlando felon, who fled after girlfriend fatally jumped from car on I-4, pleads guilty to firearm possession

A convicted felon who was arrested last year in connection with the death of his girlfriend, whose body was run over by multiple vehicles after she allegedly exited their vehicle on Interstate 4 in Orlando, has pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm.

On Monday, July 8, U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg announced that 34-year-old Albert Berry Ayala has pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.

According to court and police records, Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Ayala on April 5, 2023. He was transported to the Orlando Police Department, where he confessed to driving a vehicle that was found on January 26, 2023, on I-4, just a short distance away from the body of his girlfriend, 39-year-old Teqilla L. Shepherd.

Shepherd was found on eastbound I-4 after the Orlando Police Department received several calls regarding a body that had been struck by multiple vehicles. When officers arrived on scene, Shepherd’s body was found a short distance from her vehicle, which had crashed at the off-ramp from I-4 onto Orange Blossom Trail.

In the following weeks, homicide detectives determined that Shepherd was traveling in her vehicle as a passenger while Ayala drove. Detectives established probable cause to arrest Ayala after determining that he was in control of the vehicle when it crashed on the off-ramp.

During an interview with law enforcement, Ayala told authorities that he had picked up Shepherd from her workplace that evening and the two engaged in a verbal argument.

The argument began escalating when Shepherd spontaneously jumped from the vehicle while it was traveling on eastbound I-4. A witness traveling behind the vehicle confirmed that they saw Shepherd jump from the vehicle.

Ayala said he then attempted to exit the interstate to turn around and get Shepherd, but lost control of the vehicle on the off-ramp and crashed. He fled the scene after crashing.

In the vehicle that Ayala abandoned, law enforcement officers found a pistol and 11 rounds of ammunition. In addition, Ayala’s DNA was located on the firearm and airbag that had deployed during the crash.

At the time of the crash, Ayala had 10 prior felony convictions and was therefore prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition under federal law.

“Although the firearms offense falls under federal jurisdiction and was, accordingly, prosecuted in federal court, any investigation or prosecution related to [Teqilla L. Shepherd’s] death lies with state officials,” stated the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida in a press release on Monday.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, with assistance from the Orlando Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie A. McNeff.

Ayala is facing a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison for the firearm charge. A sentencing hearing will be held at the Orange County Courthouse on August 21, 2024.

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