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Dentist gets 12 years for DUI deaths on Harbour Island

TAMPA — For the first time since he slammed into their children with his car three years ago, instantly killing them on the Harbour Island Bridge, the parents of Douglas Kozar, 23, and Kate Kohlier, 24, got to see the Riverview dentist who did it.

In court Thursday, 37-year-old Matthew Moye wore a black suit and blue tie, a stark contrast from the ghoulish crime scene photos from Oct. 30, 2010, that show him with white Halloween makeup still on his face.

Investigators say he had a 0.13 blood alcohol level, far exceeding the 0.08 threshold at which the state presumes impairment. They say he was going 89 mph when his tire hit the median, sending him careening toward the right, then left — straight into the pair walking to their cars after work at the Marriott Waterside Hotel.

He had come to court on Thursday for a plea agreement: 12 years in prison, followed by 10 years' probation for two counts of DUI manslaughter. With good behavior, he could be out in about 10.5 years.

"Of course we're disappointed," Douglas Kozar's mother, Kathy Kozar, told reporters later.

The sentence was too short, her family said. Hillsborough has seen many others sentenced to more — sometimes 20 to 30 years — for the same charges.

"But in the end, it was all out of our control," she said. "So we had to accept it."

Douglas' brother, Matt Kozar, called it "some sort of justice."

Though the sentence was set, the victims' families still had the chance to share memories and tales of loss in court. And they did, bringing framed family photos to the lectern.

Douglas Kozar was a mechanically minded young man who loved fishing and wanted to get into law enforcement. He was quiet, introspective and artistic.

Kate Kohlier was a people person majoring in psychology. More than 300 came to her memorial. One said he was only there because of Kate — because she had talked him out of suicide.

Douglas' father, Russ Kozar, sounded shaky as he read a letter addressed to his son the day before his funeral, signed "I'll never stop loving you, Dad."

His voice hardened when he turned to Moye.

"I have no forgiveness for you, and I have no sympathy," he said.

Kate Kohlier's mother, Cindy Collins, spoke softly about her only daughter. When Kate was young, Collins would sing You Are My Sunshine to her each day. Even in her 20s, Kate would text her mom each morning: "Morning, mama."

It was her way of letting her mother know everything was okay.

Halloween and Christmas were Kate's favorites. Each year, when Collins sees the decorations in the store for the first time, she cries.

"Knowing it's another year of loss," she said.

The Kozar family criticized Moye for not showing up in court before now. They had traveled from New York about 15 times for various proceedings. He needed to "man up," Kathy Kozar said.

Moye's attorney, Steve Romine, later told the Tampa Bay Times that he had advised his client, who was out on $119,000 bail, not to attend because Moye had received some "disturbing threats" after the highly publicized crash.

He continued to run his business, Big Bend Dental, after he bailed out of jail. On Thursday, he looked directly at each family member who spoke, his expression never changing.

Russ Kozar said he doubts Moye has remorse. And though Douglas will never come back, the father got an ounce of satisfaction from one thing:

Hearing the click of the handcuffs as a bailiff slipped them around the dentist's wrists.

Times staff writer Dan Sullivan contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

Dentist gets 12 years for DUI deaths on Harbour Island 11/07/13 [Last modified: Friday, November 8, 2013 12:08am]
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