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Victim's family in fatal Hernando accident sues driver

BROOKSVILLE — The family of a Spring Hill woman killed in a wreck in January 2008 is seeking financial damages from the woman who was sentenced to 13 years in prison in the death.

The auto negligence and wrongful death lawsuit filed Monday comes more than four months after Barbara Diffendal pleaded guilty in the collision that killed Jeanine Bethoney.

The Florida Highway Patrol said Diffendal was driving a 2003 Ford Mustang south on U.S. 19 and lost control of her car as she changed lanes. She crossed the median and struck a 1989 Pontiac Firebird driven by Bethoney.

Bethoney, 34, died about two hours later at Oak Hill Hospital. She was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.

Diffendal ran off with her daughter, who was uninjured. Hernando County sheriff's deputies found them later.

She was charged on Sept. 24, 2008, with DUI manslaughter and leaving the scene without rendering aid. Toxicology results showed she had been under the influence of alcohol, arrest reports said.

On July 31, Diffendal took a deal to get 13 years in prison.

A little more than a month later, Diffendal reconsidered and filed a motion to reduce her sentence. But Circuit Judge Stephen Rushing denied Diffendal's motion, sending her back to state prison in Ocala.

At the hearing, Bethoney's mother, Diane Costello, said the family was still very upset with Diffendal.

"She shows no remorse," Costello said at the time. "It's an insult to injury."

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6120.

Victim's family in fatal Hernando accident sues driver 12/09/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 9, 2009 8:12pm]
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