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Melissa Daddio sentenced to three years in death of boyfriend

LARGO — The family of the dead 20-year-old sat on one side of the courtroom.

The family of the young woman accused of killing him in a drunken-driving accident sat on the other.

As Melissa Daddio was sentenced to three years in prison Friday, both families broke into tears.

"Unfortunately, you're going to carry this burden, to one degree or another, for the rest of your life," said Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge R. Timothy Peters.

Daddio began to shake and started sobbing.

The 20-year-old had been drinking vodka, snorting cocaine and smoking pot before she got behind the wheel early on the morning of Feb. 9, 2009.

She was speeding when her Hyundai flipped into the air and landed sideways against a building in St. Petersburg.

Her boyfriend, Ryan King, was in the passenger seat. He died at the scene.

The next day, Daddio went to King's parents. She apologized for taking his life and said she wished it was her that had died.

Ultimately, they forgave her.

On Friday, King's mother, Denise, asked the judge to give Daddio house arrest and probation.

"We believe she is sincerely remorseful and regrets the decisions she made that night," King said.

King said she wanted Daddio to continue her speaking engagements with Safe Teen Driver, a nonprofit organization formed to teach teenagers about responsible driving.

On Thursday, the day before her sentencing, Daddio spoke to students at Indian Rocks Christian School about the consequences of making bad decisions. She has also spoken at Shorecrest Preparatory School.

"Wouldn't that be more effective than sitting in prison?" King said.

But Daddio already pleaded guilty to driving under the influence manslaughter and driving under the influence causing serious bodily injury. The agreement stipulated she would serve three years.

She had faced a minimum of 14 years in prison, said Daddio's attorney, George Tragos.

She also received three years of probation to be served when she is released from prison.

Prosecutor Greg Baird said the state accepted the plea agreement, in part, because of the support of the King family.

Daddio tried to read a statement to Peters — the same one she reads to students — but was too emotional to continue.

Twice, without prompting, she told the judge: "I'm guilty."

Peters ordered Daddio to continue her speaking engagements as a condition of probation.

"I hope that, ultimately, you find some peace," he told her.

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Melissa Daddio sentenced to three years in death of boyfriend 04/23/10 [Last modified: Saturday, April 24, 2010 12:22am]
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