TAMPA — A 20-year-old man was sentenced to six years of probation Thursday after he pleaded no contest to a vehicular manslaughter charge.
Addison Strzalka of Brandon was driving at least 83 mph on Nov. 10 when he lost control of his truck on Nature's Way Boulevard in Valrico and hit a tree, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
His passenger, Nicole Petracci, 19, of Valrico, was ejected and died at the scene.
She was a Bloomingdale High graduate who attended Hillsborough Community College.
Petracci's family wrote a letter urging Judge Ashley Moody to not make Strzalka a felon or send him to jail, said Eddie Suarez, Strzalka's attorney.
"I think that had a great impact on the judge's decision," Suarez said.
Moody withheld adjudication and imposed youthful offender probation instead. Strzalka must complete drug and alcohol evaluation, perform 250 hours of community service and speak four times a year to young people on the dangers of reckless driving, Suarez said.
His license was suspended for two years.
The sentence means he can finish his associate's degree at Hillsborough Community College and possibly transfer to the University of South Florida.
The afternoon of sentencing testimony was emotional, including pleas for leniency from Strzalka's parents, grandfather, youth pastor, psychologist and a neighbor who is a retired deputy.
Glenn Strzalka, the defendant's father, is a wounded Vietnam veteran who told the court about the kind of man his son has become and the remorse he feels for the crash, Suarez said.
Others testified that Strzalka volunteered to feed the homeless and was involved in his church. Glowing testimonies about his character before the crash added to the somberness.
"It was tragic. You typically have a bad guy and a victim." Suarez explained. "To have both families make a joint recommendation to the court was very unusual."