NEW PORT RICHEY — The crash happened on the dark blacktop of U.S. 19, after 2 a.m. on Sunday, April 5, 2009.
A motorcycle heading north with a man driving and a woman on the back collided with a sport utility vehicle carrying three people.
The woman on the motorcycle, Nicole Cetrangolo, 37, was thrown off the bike and died. The driver, Ken Dillon, went to a hospital with serious injuries.
Months went by before authorities charged the SUV's driver, Deborah Terrero, with vehicular homicide, driving-under-the-influence manslaughter and DUI serious bodily injury. By then, she had moved to Upstate New York and found work as a substitute teacher.
Terrero's trial started Monday, and the seven-member jury will have to analyze the mechanics of the accident and whether Terrero's impairment level may have contributed to it.
Prosecutor Chris Jensen said Terrero, 55, had been at a bar on U.S. 19, north of State Road 52 in Hudson, with her cousins that night. She was drinking beer and shots of mango vodka, Jensen said. She had a blood alcohol level of 0.062 — below the level at which the state presumes impairment. She also had Xanax and methadone in her system, creating an intoxicating mix.
Dillon's blood was drawn at the hospital, Jensen said, and his alcohol level was "triple zeroes."
But Anett Lopez, Terrero's attorney, told jurors that Dillon's test was done four hours after the crash, and that he had admitted to paramedics having four drinks that night.
Terrero, she said, was prescribed the drugs she was taking by doctors, had never experienced side effects and was not abusing them.
What's more, Lopez said, the motorcycle actually struck the back of the Explorer — not the other way around.
"He hit her," Lopez said. "Who caused this accident? We believe it was the motorcycle driver."
Prosecutors, however, don't have to prove that Terrero caused the crash. They need only prove that she contributed to it, Jensen said.
If convicted as charged, Terrero could get up to 20 years in prison. The trial continues today.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.