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Wrong-way driver in fatal crash to stay in jail until trial

Cheryl M. Riemann, 25, doesn’t remember the fatal collision.

Cheryl M. Riemann, 25, doesn’t remember the fatal collision.

TAMPA — Convinced that wrong-way driver Cheryl M. Riemann poses a threat to the community, a judge ruled Thursday that she must stay in jail until her trial.

Riemann, 25, drove drunk, ran over traffic cones and traveled in the wrong direction on the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway, authorities say. They blame her for causing a head-on crash that killed a mother and critically injured her 4-year-old daughter Sept. 10.

But why, and how, did it happen?

Riemann, 25, is refusing interviews. Her husband has said he doesn't know.

In court Thursday, a state Highway Patrol trooper offered chilling new details of how little the Ruskin woman recalled about the collision.

Trooper Frank Burke said Riemann asked him where the crash occurred when he gave her a citation for driving the wrong way. She was still in the hospital for her own injuries at the time. She said she didn't remember driving the wrong way or being on the expressway, Burke testified.

"Why would I be there?" she asked, according to Burke.

Authorities say Riemann had a blood-alcohol level of 0.244, three times than the level at which someone is presumed impaired under state law.

They found several unopened Budweiser beer bottles in the front of her Honda Pilot. A witness called 911 about 12 minutes before the 2:11 p.m. crash to report that he saw Riemann's car weaving all over Bayshore Boulevard. Three police cars were dispatched but were unable to locate her.

Arthur Rosian had heard those details before. But the trooper's account was fresh and painful for the man who lost his 24-year-old stepdaughter, Jennifer O'Boyle, in the crash and is praying for a full recovery for his granddaughter, Summer Moll.

"It's gut wrenching," he said, his lip quivering. "It's beyond belief."

Summer's condition has been upgraded to stable and she could soon be moved out of intensive care, he said.

Riemann faces multiple felony charges, including driving-under-the-influence manslaughter and DUI resulting in seriously bodily injury.

Those aren't the kind of charges that usually land someone in jail with no bail, particularly when the defendant has no prior criminal record, a couple defense attorneys said.

"It can't just be the nature of the charge itself," attorney Stephen Romine said. "It's got to be something beyond that. It's not a common practice."

But the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office has successfully argued for pretrial detention in other high-profile traffic cases involving death, including that of Kenneth Delmar Stewart, who is set to go to trial next month on DUI manslaughter charges stemming from a crash that killed four people on the eve of a 2006 wedding.

Assistant State Attorney Barbara Coleman said the facts spoke for themselves in Riemann's case. She noted that Riemann had a 2005 conviction for driving with a suspended license.

But Chuck Traina, an assistant public defender, said that charge should not carry great weight, given that it was three years old and Riemann's license had been reinstated. He asked the court not to overreact.

Circuit Judge Walter Heinrich took a 25-minute break to consider the testimony.

Riemann listened and watched from the jail through closed-circuit TV. When the judge announced his ruling, her face fell.

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

Wrong-way driver in fatal crash to stay in jail until trial 09/25/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 2, 2008 2:35pm]
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