Saturday, February 24, 2018
News Roundup

Brooksville woman charged with DUI manslaughter recounts details of crash

BROOKSVILLE — Karen Macchione took the stand Wednesday and recalled the day she killed a man.

Macchione, now 47, left a post office shortly before 1 p.m. on Nov. 8, 2011, and headed west on Spring Hill Drive. Within minutes, she came upon a construction zone near the Suncoast Parkway.

Her phone rang, she said.

"I just looked down for a second," she said.

Her Dodge Ram pickup veered into a lane blocked with orange barrels and struck 28-year-old Steve Thompson Jr., who was preparing to paint lane markings on the pavement. He died a short time later.

"It all happened so fast, and I'm sorry, and if I could trade places with him I would, but it was an accident," Macchione said, breaking down into sobs. "And I live with it every single day."

Prosecutors say Macchione of Brooksville was impaired by the methadone she was prescribed and should not have been driving. She was eventually charged with DUI manslaughter.

On Tuesday, Florida Highway Patrol troopers testified that Macchione was slurring words, seemed unsteady on her feet and appeared to nod off after the crash. Jurors heard a recorded interview at the scene in which patrol Cpl. David Frye could be heard rousing her after asking a question.

On the stand Wednesday, Macchione said she is disabled and takes prescribed medications for fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, arthritis and a thyroid condition. She said she took three 10-milligram methadone pills the day before crash, the last one about an hour before she went to bed about midnight. She also took the muscle relaxer and anxiety medication.

She woke up at 5 a.m. to get her kids ready for school, taking only the thyroid medication before leaving the house.

As she answered defense attorney Scott Smith's questions, Macchione's eyelids appeared heavy. She slurred some of her words, paused in mid-sentence and at times seemed to stare into the distance.

During cross-examination, Assistant State Attorney Bill Catto asked when she last took methadone. Two days ago, she said. She took the muscle relaxer and the anxiety medication on Tuesday night, and the thyroid medication that morning.

"Is how you are today how you normally act and present?" Catto asked.

"No," she replied.

"Is it better?"

"No, it's worse."

"Worse than that afternoon when you were in Corporal Frye's patrol car?"

"I'm better right this moment," Macchione said.

A postal clerk and longtime friend of Macchione's said she seemed fine at the post office but appeared "distraught and very, very confused" after the crash.

Forensic toxicologist Bruce Goldberger testified that the amount of methadone found in blood samples drawn at the crash scene was on the low end of the therapeutic range. But someone can still be impaired when the amount is in that range, Goldberger said.

Veering into a construction zone and nodding off during interviews with investigators could all be evidence of impairment, he said.

The case is expected to go to the jury today.

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