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Driver sentenced in death of road worker working in Wesley Chapel


Driver sentenced in death of road worker

A 50-year-old driver who killed a road maintenance worker was sentenced Thursday to 12 1/2 years in prison.

Elias Soto was convicted in December of DUI manslaughter and two counts of DUI property damage.

Soto hit Michael Gunter, 18, who was installing traffic signal sensors in Wesley Chapel on Oct. 19, 2006. Gunter died from his injuries a few months later.

Witnesses said Soto smelled of alcohol, urinated on the road and failed field sobriety tests.

Breathalyzer tests showed a blood-alcohol content of 0.051 percent and 0.055 percent, well below the 0.08 percent threshold where the law presumes a driver to be impaired. Still, jurors can convict someone on DUI charges if other evidence indicates the driver was impaired.

As he was being sentenced Thursday, Soto said he would trade places with the victim if he could.


Meet principal, learn more about Fivay High

Students assigned to attend the new Fivay High School in the fall will have an opportunity to meet principal Angie Stone and learn about programs during an orientation at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Ridgewood High School media center, 7650 Orchid Lake Road, New Port Richey.

Students will have the opportunity to help choose the school mascot, as well as see drawings of what the new school will look like.

For information, call the district's communications department at (727) 774-2717.


Trinity Baptist marks its 30th anniversary

Trinity Baptist church will celebrate its 30th anniversary on Sunday. Festivities begin at 10:45 a.m. at the church, 5725 Rowan Road. Retired Pastor Art Beal, the founding pastor of the church, will deliver the anniversary message.

After the anniversary service a potluck dinner will be served in the church fellowship hall. For information, call the church at (727) 842-2336.


Ex-boyfriend charged in knifing at strip club

At a strip club a few hours before dawn Wednesday, a man sliced his ex-girlfriend's throat with a pocketknife and then pummeled her face with his fists, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

Michael Dane Smith, 22, of 4123 Grand Blvd. in New Port Richey is charged with aggravated battery and possession of drug paraphernalia. The incident happened at 4:42 a.m. at Diamonds, 3935 Grand Blvd. in Holiday. The victim's injuries weren't life-threatening, said sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll. A report said the cut was 3 to 4 inches across the front of her neck.

Deputies found needles and a spoon with remnants of a "burnt substance" on Smith when he was arrested, the report states.

He was held without bail in the Land O'Lakes jail.


Repeat armed robber given a life sentence

A man who robbed the Del Carmen Mexican store at gunpoint was sentenced Thursday to life in prison.

Morris Standifer, 28, received an enhanced penalty as a "prison releasee reoffender," because he committed the Nov. 16, 2006, holdup after recently serving another prison stint for armed robbery, carrying a concealed weapon and cocaine possession.

Authorities said Standifer went into the store on Seventh Street, pointed a gun at the clerk and yelled at her to open the cash registers.

He made off with a wad of money but police found him a few minutes later hiding under a house.

It took three attempts at a trial for Standifer, who on the morning of his trial in June cut his wrist with a pen in the courtroom. Attorneys were unable to seat a jury on their second attempt before finally holding the trial in December, when he was convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon.

Driver sentenced in death of road worker working in Wesley Chapel 01/28/10 [Last modified: Thursday, January 28, 2010 10:02pm]
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