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Riverview man gets 21 years in prison for DUI deaths

Josh McFarland sheds a tear during the sentencing of Randy Archiquette, who pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter in the 2009 deaths of Brittany McFarland, 20, and Betty Williams, 69. Next to McFarland is Betty King, Betty Williams’ daughter.

Photos by WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Josh McFarland sheds a tear during the sentencing of Randy Archiquette, who pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter in the 2009 deaths of Brittany McFarland, 20, and Betty Williams, 69. Next to McFarland is Betty King, Betty Williams’ daughter.

TAMPA — They sobbed while telling the judge how the death of their 20-year-old aspiring nurse devastated the family. They faced her killer and told him how much they hated him.

But when the judge sentenced the killer, the faces of Brittany McFarland's family were etched with a different kind of pain.

Randy Archiquette, 41, of Riverview, will serve 21 years in prison and 24 years of probation for killing McFarland and 69-year-old Betty Williams in a 2009 drunken driving incident, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Thomas Barber decided Friday.

Barber sentenced Archiquette according to the guidelines for DUI manslaughter charges. He said Archiquette, a father of two young girls, took responsibility by pleading guilty, had no criminal background and seemed "genuinely remorseful."

But McFarland's family and friends had asked the judge for life in prison — or at least a stiff sentence.

"Being at the bottom end of this scale was like a slap in the face," McFarland's father Kenny said. "(Archiquette) shouldn't be on the streets."

On April 13, 2009, Archiquette caused five wrecks in 30 minutes as he drove through Tampa under the influence of alcohol, prescription medication and muscle relaxants.

Around 3:30 p.m. that day, calls starting pouring into police that a gold Chevrolet Tahoe was barrelling down Adamo Drive and had hit at least two vehicles.

Police detectives think Archiquette may have driven on the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway toward downtown Tampa, then gone north on Florida Avenue.

Archiquette plowed into Williams' car, shoving it into a telephone pole. He kept going.

Past the intersection at Hillsborough Avenue, he crossed into incoming traffic. He hit McFarland's car head-on, sending it spinning into a tow truck.

McFarland and Williams were pronounced dead at local hospitals. Archiquette had no injuries.

During the sentencing, McFarland's parents played a video montage in front of Archiquette. Set to the country song If I Die Young, Brittany McFarland's self-portraits and pictures with friends were interspersed with photographs of her mangled car, open-casket funeral and gravesite.

"I truly hate you," brother Josh McFarland said angrily to Archiquette while rocking and wringing papers in his hands. "The ones that act stupid never die. I have lost more than you can return."

Archiquette addressed the families for the first time Friday.

"This is my shame," he told them, saying he had "no excuse" for what he did.

Archiquette, who served in the Army, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. At the time of the wrecks, he had abused alcohol and had prescriptions for narcotic painkillers and muscle relaxants.

Part of his sentence includes a lifetime driving ban, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and abstaining from alcohol.

He sat through the sentencing stoically, though his hands trembled when he turned the handwritten pages of his apology. He looked often to the rows of people who wanted to show him how much he hurt them.

Brittany McFarland's grandfather called it a "smug, arrogant demeanor" that showed no remorse.

Later, a daughter of Betty Williams, the other victim, stood up and told Archiquette, "I forgive you from my heart."

His cheeks turned pink, and he bowed his head to rub his eyes.

Stephanie Wang can be reached at swang@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2443.

Riverview man gets 21 years in prison for DUI deaths 02/11/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 11, 2011 11:15pm]
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