Wednesday, February 21, 2018
News Roundup

Driver in DUI manslaughter that killed two in Hudson sentenced to 22 years

The dead man's wife asked a question in court.

Have you ever had your heart break outside your body? A break so bad that nothing is ever the same again?

Jessica Diede asked that to Shawn Cleaver, 39, who sat alone in a jury box Monday, in an inmate's clothes, waiting to hear how many of his years he'd spend in prison.

On a Sunday after midnight in October 2009, Cleaver got behind the wheel of his friend Harry "Buster" Diede's souped-up truck and left the Players Club. The two, along with friend Mark R. Whisner, had been drinking most of the day. The pickup barreled along Denton Avenue in Hudson at 90 miles per hour.

The road curved but the vehicle did not. The pickup flipped four times and slammed into a concrete pole. Diede died at the scene. The crash pinned Whisner in the back seat, and he died, too. Cleaver was pinned alive in the driver's seat. Emergency workers cut him out. His blood alcohol level was between 0.124 and 0.125 percent, well above the 0.08 threshold at which Florida law presumes that someone is unable to safely drive.

In his November trial, his lawyer Dan Duryea told jurors there were no eyewitnesses to the crash and that "no one knows who was really driving."

A jury found Cleaver guilty of DUI manslaughter and culpable negligence in less than two hours. On Monday, with the courtroom full of family members of both the deceased and the convicted, Cleaver waited for his sentence. But first, the widow spoke.

"I got no gratification from watching you get put in handcuffs. I knew (my husband) wasn't driving that truck. He would never drink and drive," Jessica Diede said. "His life was too important. His kids were too important. This was your fault."

Toni Whisner, the other widow from the crash, said her husband was her soulmate. She's torn open, she said, because she'll never get to kiss or hold him again.

"It's time for him to pay for what he's done," she told Circuit Judge Mary Handsel.

Handsel sentenced Cleaver to 22 years in prison.

"I've done lots of these and every single one of them is as sad and as heartbreaking and gut-wrenching and family-breaking as the next one," Handsel said. "At some point in your life, you're going to get to leave (prison) and see your children. The two men whose lives you took will never get to see their children again."

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