TAMPA — Charles and Wanda Peoples were married 42 years and had four children together. She stuck with him through his four decades of addictions to heroin and alcohol.
When he killed her in a drunken driving crash in 2010, prosecutors said he tried to cut her seat belt and move her body behind the steering wheel.
At his sentencing Friday, Peoples, 60, called himself the victim. He said he'd been "railroaded" by the court. He said he never tried to move his 58-year-old wife after the crash that night on Nov. 27, 2010. He said he'd been a good husband and father.
"I never hurt my wife," he said. "I never made her do anything she didn't want to do."
But after a prosecutor described Peoples' drunkenness that night, his addictions and multiple arrests over 40 years, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Gregory Holder said, "The only appropriate punishment is the maximum allowed by law."
The accident happened about 7 p.m. on Interstate 75 near the College Avenue exit to Ruskin and Sun City Center. Peoples was driving south in his Isuzu with Wanda beside him when he veered into the path of a Lincoln Mark VIII.
The Florida Highway Patrol said Peoples had a blood-alcohol level of 0.204, more than twice the limit at which the state presumes a person is too impaired to drive. Peoples also was driving on a revoked license and was on probation.
Peoples dismissed his attorney, representing himself. He initially pleaded not guilty, then switched to a guilty plea rather than go to trial. But then he tried to withdraw his plea. Holder refused to let him.
On Friday, Peoples asked for a delay in sentencing, saying he wanted to present testimony from a doctor that he was sick. The judge instead reviewed the doctor's written findings.
Then, for DUI manslaughter, driving on a revoked license and violation of probation, Holder gave Peoples 25 years in prison.
John Barry can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or [email protected]