Man guilty of manslaughter in 2006 crash
After two hours of deliberation, a jury on Wednesday convicted Elias Soto of DUI manslaughter, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years of prison, and two counts of DUI property damage. "Justice has been served," said Andi Gunter, the victim's mother. Michael Gunter, 18, was a road maintenance worker installing traffic signal sensors in Wesley Chapel when Soto crashed into him in the early hours of Oct. 19, 2006. He died of his injuries a few months later. Witnesses said Soto smelled of alcohol, urinated on the road and failed his field sobriety tests, but his Breathalyzer tests showed a blood-alcohol content of 0.051 and 0.055, well below the 0.08 threshold that triggers a DUI charge. Still, jurors can convict someone on DUI charges if other evidence indicates the driver was impaired. "(Soto's) family can visit him at the jail, while I'm going to be visiting my son at the graveyard," Mrs. Gunter said. Soto will be sentenced Jan. 28.
New Port Richey
Two struck by car, are badly injured
Two people were flown to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg in critical condition after being hit by a car while trying to cross U.S. 19 on Tuesday night, according to police. About 10:30 p.m., Michael Taylor, 26, and Janelle Honeycutt, 29, both of New Port Richey, were crossing the southbound lanes of U.S. 19 near Floramar Terrace when they were hit by a 2003 Honda Accord driven by 82-year-old Barbara Mass, police said. Police closed the southbound lanes of U.S. 19 while detectives conducted the investigation. On Wednesday, Taylor was upgraded to fair condition, according to hospital staff. Honeycutt remained in critical condition.
Robber sought in Regions Bank theft
Authorities are searching for a man who robbed a Regions Bank on Wednesday morning. The man, described as about 55 years old, handed the teller a note saying he had a weapon. He fled the bank, at 6424 Embassy Blvd. in Port Richey, with an undisclosed amount of cash. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office received the call at 11:28 a.m. Witnesses said the man was white, and had gray hair, a moustache and a medium build. He wore sunglasses and a black jacket. He may have escaped in a gray Ford Taurus. Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at (727) 844-7711.
Detailed obituaries are published in Section B.