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Riverview man pleads guilty to two DUI manslaughter charges

Randy Archiquette changed his plea to guilty with no deal.

SKIP O’ROURKE | TIMES

Randy Archiquette changed his plea to guilty with no deal.

TAMPA — For more than a year, Randy Archiquette maintained his innocence.

When he first learned that two women had died in a series of car crashes he was accused of causing while driving drunk on April 13, 2009, he told a detective they weren't his fault.

On Monday, he changed his plea to guilty — guilty of two counts of driving under the influence manslaughter in the deaths of Betty Williams, 69, and Brittany McFarland, 20, and guilty of leaving the scenes of those crashes. He also pleaded guilty to three counts of property damage.

Because the plea doesn't come with any sentencing requirements, he could get up to life in prison.

Archiquette, an Army veteran from Riverview, had a 0.147 percent blood-alcohol level while driving through Tampa that April afternoon, investigators said.

He caused five crashes within 30 minutes, stopping only when his gold Chevrolet Yukon flipped upside down near Hills­borough and Florida avenues, police said.

Williams and McFarland died in separate crashes.

The prosecution says that Archiquette also was under the influence of prescription drugs, including a muscle relaxant.

Several members from each victim's family attended the hearing. They said they're glad there won't be a trial but are impatient for the Feb. 11 sentencing.

"I'm ready for him to go where he needs to be, which is away forever," said Rachelle McFarland, Brittany's mother. "Because that's where my baby is."

During the short hearing, Circuit Judge Thomas Barber made sure Archiquette understood that he could get life in prison.

"You cannot change your mind and say I was hoping for something less," Barber said.

"I understand, sir," he replied.

Archiquette has spent the 19 months since his arrest in jail without bail. He was honorably discharged from the Army after 12 years of service, and has two young daughters.

Outside the courtroom, a familiar face stood by Rachelle McFarland: Tammy Rosian, the grandmother of 6-year-old Summer Moll, injured in a September 2008 DUI crash, accompanies McFarland to each hearing.

Each lost a daughter to a drunken driver and connected on Facebook. McFarland went to court with Rosian, too.

"We're supporting each other," Rosian said.

Riverview man pleads guilty to two DUI manslaughter charges 11/08/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 8, 2010 11:51pm]
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