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Oldsmar man gets 15 years for DUI boating death

LARGO — After deliberating for three hours, a jury on Thursday evening decided Jeremy Rettman was responsible for the death of a 21-year-old friend who was killed in a boating accident two years ago.

A judge immediately sentenced him to 15 years in prison.

Rettman, of Oldsmar, was on trial this week on a charge of boating under the influence-manslaughter. Prosecutors said he had a blood alcohol level more than twice the level at which the state presumes impairment when his 16-foot Hydrosport crashed into a boat at anchor on Lake Tarpon on April 5, 2008.

One of Rettman's roommates, Patricia Blankenship, was mauled by the boat's propeller, which slashed her chest and nearly severed her arm. Blankenship, a 2004 graduate of Pasco's Mitchell High School, died 10 days after the accident.

The verdict and sentence brought little solace to Blakenship's mother, Penny Barnett of Holiday.

"There's no one who wins here," said Barnett, 43. "This is not closure, by a long shot. There is no closure."

According to prosecutors, Rettman was operating the boat's throttle as his daughter, who was 10 years old at the time, steered the boat that evening.

But Rettman's defense attorney, Richard Zaleski, said there was no evidence that Rettman was the person in control of the vessel at the time of the accident. Zaleski said the boat belonged to Blankenship's fiance, Justin Shields, who was also on the Hydrosport at the time of the accident.

Rettman's daughter, who is now 12, testified this week that both her father and Shields were next to her while she was steering and that it was Shields who had set the throttle.

"It's devastating for someone who wasn't the owner or operator of the boat to go down as the captain of the ship," Zaleski said.

Rettman, 33, had a history of arrests for driving-related offenses such as DUI, driving with a suspended or revoked license, and reckless driving.

Barnett, Blakenship's mother, said her heart "bleeds" for Rettman's daughter, Amanda.

"I bless his family and my heart just goes out to his family," she said. "My main concern is for Amanda. I've never blamed her, not once. I hope she can get on with her life."

Barnett said she still has days where she cannot believe her daughter is gone forever.

"As far as Patricia, she was sentenced to death," Barnett said. "Me and her family were sentenced to life."

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

Oldsmar man gets 15 years for DUI boating death 02/12/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 12, 2010 7:22pm]
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