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Man charged in five DUI-related deaths pleads guilty, will get 25 years in prison

TAMPA — Every time she sees Kenneth Delmar Stewart in court, she is reminded.

Cathy Manzano Jones remembers what was supposed to be a happy weekend with her family gathered from across the country for her wedding. But on the eve of the celebration three years ago, Stewart drove drunk, ran a red light and crashed into the 2004 Mercedes-Benz carrying five of the bride's relatives.

All five died, including Manzano Jones' mother.

On Thursday, Stewart, 38, pleaded guilty to five counts of DUI manslaughter. The Lakeland man will be sentenced next month to 25 years in prison, followed by 10 years of probation.

Manzano Jones, 39, expects a crowd of relatives and friends to attend the sentencing hearing. She said she was relieved they won't have to endure a trial.

"I'd like more (prison time), but what can you do?" she said. "I'm glad we got what we got."

Tears filled her red-lined eyes.

"Every time I see him, it just kills me all the time," she said. "I just never want to see him again."

Stewart was driving a Dodge Durango on April 21, 2006, when he collided with Emily Manzano's car about 3 a.m. at Lumsden Road and Parsons Avenue in Brandon.

Manzano, an energetic 62-year-old who was active in the local Filipino-American community, had spent the evening shuttling relatives from airports to her daughter's Port Tampa home, where the family played mah-jongg and told stories until 2 a.m.

The accident occurred as Manzano drove some guests to her home in Brandon. She and two of the bride's cousins were killed in the crash. Two other family members died later from their injuries.

Stewart's blood-alcohol level at the time of the crash was 0.12. Under state law, a person is considered too impaired to drive at 0.08. Investigators at the scene said they smelled alcohol on his breath.

Stewart also pleaded guilty to two counts of driving under the influence with serious bodily injury for the injuries sustained by his own two passengers.

At her father's urging, Manzano Jones, an only child, still went through with the wedding she and her mother spent a year planning.

In the years since the accident, she has observed the back-to-back anniversaries that arose from the tragedy.

First, her family holds what she ruefully called a "death anniversary party'' every year. They gather to pray and say the rosary.

The next day, she celebrates her wedding anniversary.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Man charged in five DUI-related deaths pleads guilty, will get 25 years in prison 06/18/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 18, 2009 10:54pm]
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