Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Driver gets six years in Brooksville fatality

BROOKSVILLE — Sherri Collins found herself in an all too familiar role and an all too familiar place.

As a victim, she sat on the front row in the courtroom Thursday, struggling to hold back tears as she watched the errant driver who killed her boyfriend appear before a judge.

Darrell Newberry, 25, died in October 2007 when James C. Morris drove into him as Newberry took the trash to the curb outside his home on Elgin Boulevard in Spring Hill.

Morris, 22, stood before Circuit Judge Jack Springstead to accept a plea deal that will put him in prison for six years.

The deal came at the behest of Newberry's relatives, including Collins, 24.

But they didn't do it out of mercy. They feared the risk of going to trial.

To understand, consider what happened to Collins' 23-year-old brother, Marc, two years earlier.

He died in a car wreck in December 2005 — a passenger in a car driven by a drunk driver with a suspended license.

A judge took a look at the record of the driver, Brian Gomes, and called him "one of the worst drivers in Hernando County."

But at a February trial, a jury found Gomes not responsible for his passenger's death and acquitted him of DUI manslaughter.

Gomes served a year in county jail for driving drunk, but Marc Collins' death went unrecognized.

"He pretty much got away with it," Sherri Collins said. So this time she was determined not to let it happen again. "I didn't want to go to trial," she said.

Morris' attorney planned to make it a tough case with numerous motions to dismiss key evidence about the marijuana and other drugs found in his system.

Assistant State Attorney Bill Catto, who also handled the Gomes case, was confident he would prevail. But he acknowledged: "They are a close call, and we didn't want to take a chance."

Morris, who had no previous criminal record, agreed to accept a guilty verdict on the lesser charge of aggravated battery.

If the case went to trial, he faced a maximum of 15 years in prison with a minimum 10 1/2 years behind bars, Catto said.

Knowing this, the judge repeatedly asked Collins whether she wanted him to go forward with the plea deal.

She nodded her head "yes."

John Frank can be reached at or (352) 754-6114.

Driver gets six years in Brooksville fatality 01/29/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 29, 2009 6:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Controversial landfill site could be rechristened as industrial recruiting land in Pasco

    Economic Development

    The east Pasco property of Angelo's Aggregate Materials, which failed to obtain a state environmental permit to be developed as a garbage landfill, is being studied as a potential 1,000-acre mega site for industrial recruitment.

  2. Joe Henderson: At son's wedding, memories of child-rearing build to a perfect moment


    On a secluded beach known as Hawksnest on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a bride-to-be named Heather McNeill hurried along a wooded path to meet the man she was about to marry.

    Heather McNeill married fellow Strawberry Crest High teacher Ben Henderson on a secluded beach in the U.S. Virgin Islands. "They wanted something totally theirs," says Ben's dad Joe Henderson. "I think they had their parents in mind, as well." [Courtesy of Henderson family]
  3. Forecast: Near record-high temperatures, minimal rain in store for Tampa Bay


    Tampa Bay residents can expect a significantly hot Wednesday — possibly record-breaking — and a small chance of pop up showers.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  4. Marriott opening new hotel on Clearwater Beach


    CLEARWATER BEACH — A dual-branded Marriott hotel with a tongue-twister name is opening on Clearwater Beach in August. The Residence Inn Tampa Clearwater Beach and SpringHill Suites Tampa Clearwater Beach will have 255 suites total, connected by a lobby.

    A dual-branded Marriott hotel called the Residence Inn Tampa Clearwater Beach and SpringHill Suites Tampa Clearwater Beach will open in August in Clearwater Beach. Pictured is a rendering.
[Courtesy of Hayworth PR]