Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco County woman gets 12 years in prison for fatal DUI crash

Heather Dison, 35, listens as Judge Pat Siracusa sentences her to 12 years on Tuesday for DUI manslaughter in a 2007 crash.

KERI WIGINTON | Times

Heather Dison, 35, listens as Judge Pat Siracusa sentences her to 12 years on Tuesday for DUI manslaughter in a 2007 crash.

DADE CITY — Heather Dison follows Jason Hamilton's MySpace page and thinks about him on his birthday. She weeps for his death at the hands of a drunken driver who struck his car while going the wrong way on U.S. 301.

Authorities say Dison was that driver.

"I miss Jason even though I didn't know him," she said in court Tuesday, tearfully reading a letter she wrote to Hamilton's loved ones. "I think he was a wonderful person. I wish his family still had him."

Dison, 35, faced up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty last month to DUI manslaughter and other DUI-related charges.

Without a deal with prosecutors, her sentence was left to Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa, who was visibly troubled over what to impose.

Ultimately, he took into account her prior DUI conviction from 1995 and sentenced her to 12 years in prison, in accordance with state guidelines.

"You should have learned at that time," the judge said. "You didn't."

On June 16, 2007, the Florida Highway Patrol said, Dison was driving a 2006 GMC pickup north in the southbound lanes of U.S. 301 when she collided with Hamilton's southbound 1979 Cadillac coupe. Another southbound vehicle, driven by Cedric Washington of Dade City, swerved to avoid the wreck, hit a pole and overturned.

Hamilton died at the scene. Jeremy Jenkins, a passenger in Hamilton's vehicle, along with Washington and four passengers from his vehicle, were injured.

Jenkins testified that he has chronic back pain and had to have 12 teeth removed after the crash.

"I've been suffering every day since the accident," he said.

Tracy Harmon said her daughter, who was engaged to Hamilton and three months' pregnant when he died, has never been the same. She was in a car ahead of Hamilton's when the crash happened and held his body in the road.

Hamilton's mother, Beulah Lee, tried to speak but was too emotional.

Dison's side pleaded for leniency, mainly because of Dison's 12-year-old daughter, who is living with her grandmother but frequently threatens to run away. Dison's attorney, Mina Morgan, said Dison would serve any amount of prison time "if she could just get her daughter through high school."

The judge said her daughter's needs were a compelling reason to give a lighter sentence. But "that's something you should have thought of before you did this," Siracusa said.

Dison said she went to the Cheers 54 bar in Zephyrhills that night to try to mask her grief over another daughter who died in 2005. Later on, knowing she shouldn't drive, she asked an acquaintance to drive her home. But somehow — she doesn't remember how — they ended up in Dade City with Dison behind the wheel.

"I always pray for you all and think of him, what he might be enjoying if he were here with you," she said to the victims. "I hope that everyone has recovered as well as they can and will have good lives," she said.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Pasco County woman gets 12 years in prison for fatal DUI crash 12/22/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 22, 2009 8:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Baker cautious on Pride politics

    Elections

    Rick and Joyce Baker strode down Central Avenue Sunday amid rainbow flags, corporate booths, and blaring music of the St. Pete Pride Festival.

    St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Baker chats Sunday with people at the St. Pete Pride Festival. As mayor, Baker did not sign a Pride parade proclamation, but now he says he would.
  2. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.
  3. Lightning among early suitors for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he planned to explore free agency for potential needs, which include bolstering his blue line and adding a wing or two.

  4. Senate leaders try to appease members as support for health bill slips

    National

    WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders scrambled Sunday to rally support for their health care bill, even as opposition continued to build outside Congress and two Republican senators questioned whether the bill would be approved this week.

    Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday, is one of the five Republican senators who announced they cannot support the health care bill as drafted.
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of June 26-July 2.

    Events

    Vans Warped Tour: The festival returns Saturday to St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park, featuring shock-metal icons Gwar, hardcore punks Sick Of It All, ska band Save Ferris and indie-pop group Never Shout Never ($39.50-$49.50). vanswarpedtour. …

    Crowd for the Motionless in White band at the 2014 Vans Warped Tour at Vinoy Park, Friday, July 25, 2014.  CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times