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Teen gets five years for DUI manslaughter in Hillsborough County

TAMPA — Samuel Garcia loved fast cars and racing, but he confined those passions to race tracks, family and friends say.

Not everyone showed his restraint.

As Garcia waited to turn onto Apollo Beach Boulevard the night of Feb. 28, 2008, a drunken teenager going more than twice the speed limit lost control of his Camaro and slammed into Garcia's car. The 32-year-old Riverview man died at the scene.

Friday, David Holdsworth, 17 at the time of the crash and 19 now, stood before a judge to face sentencing for DUI manslaughter.

He didn't explain why he was driving faster than 75 mph in a 35 mph speed zone. He said he couldn't remember how many beers he drank. An hour after the crash, Holdsworth had a blood-alcohol level of 0.136 percent. Under state law, a person is considered impaired at 0.08.

"I'm just really, really sorry for what I've done," he said.

His supporters asked for mercy. The victim's family seemed reluctantly willing to offer it, saying Garcia had been a forgiving man.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Manuel Lopez wasn't feeling as generous.

"It's remarkable the forgiveness you have in your hearts," he said to the family. But, he told Holdsworth, "I'm having a hard time in my heart finding forgiveness for you."

The judge sentenced Holdsworth, who had no prior criminal record, to five years in prison and 10 years of probation. He revoked the teen's driving privileges for life and ordered him to serve 150 community service hours.

"It's the enormity of the incident that convinces me to put this young man in prison," Lopez said.

It was an emotional two-hour hearing, except that Holdsworth showed no emotion at all. He suffered a brain injury in the crash that left him detached, depressed and with a flat affect, his mother said.

Once he intended to go to college. Now his parents doubt he can live on his own due to his decreased cognitive abilities.

No one came to court Friday seeking the maximum 15-year prison sentence. Assistant State Attorney Jill Hamel suggested Holdsworth deserved seven years in prison and five years of probation.

Saying they wanted to give Holdsworth a chance to rehabilitate himself, Garcia's parents asked for even less: a year in jail, followed by a substance abuse program and house arrest. They wanted him to lose his license forever.

"Are you satisfied with that?" the judge asked, sounding skeptical.

"We're not looking for a criminal to be made," said Sally Garcia, the victim's mother. "We're trying to be fair."

The act of goodwill did not diminish their suffering, however. Garcia left behind a younger sister, a longtime girlfriend and dozens of friends he considered family.

"David Holdsworth has stolen everything from us," Garcia's parents said in a statement read aloud by a victim's advocate. "We are left with a huge hole in our hearts that can never be filled."

The day before Garcia died, they said, he bought the final parts for the Mustang he had spent years rebuilding. He couldn't wait to race it.

Now it sits in a garage, collecting dust and reminding his family what they lost.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Teen gets five years for DUI manslaughter in Hillsborough County 12/18/09 [Last modified: Saturday, December 19, 2009 12:01am]
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