CLEARWATER — James Lehosit died in a Clearwater traffic crash, but for his family and friends, he lives on through a book he illustrated about Jacksonville.
Lehosit, a young artist, was the photographer and art director for The Dogs of Riverside and Avondale, an anecdotal account of the dogs, people and places of historic Jacksonville.
The work, which will be published soon, was supposed to launch his career, but now it's all that is left.
On June 13, the 27-year-old made a day trip from Jacksonville to Clearwater with a friend. They were travelling north on Keene Road about 7:51 p.m., with Lehosit as a passenger, when police say a drunken driver coming west on Sunset Point Road ran a red light and smashed into their 1995 Cherokee Laredo.
Lehosit was killed when the Laredo flipped.
On Thursday, Clearwater police arrested Casey F. Schwartz, 28, of Dunedin, on a charge of DUI manslaughter. Schwartz smelled of alcohol and mumbled at the scene, police said. Later, a blood draw measured his blood-alcohol content at .142 and .144 — almost twice the level (0.08) at which Florida law presumes impairment.
"He had hopes and dreams. He had a career. He wanted to do things with his life," Charlie Lehosit, 55, said of his son. "The unfairness is that James can't go on. That's the thing that's so difficult about this."
"It's so bizarre to us," his mother, Peg Lehosit, 53, said. "We really don't drink. We never drank in front of our boys. We're responsible. And then to have alcohol still affect our family like this, it's just unbelievable."
The loss of Lehosit rippled through the lives of his friends and family. At his funeral, his mother said, people came from 12 states, including places as far away as Hawaii.
Lehosit grew up in Jacksonville with his parents and his brother, Charles, who is now 29. He attended Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville and then graduated in May from Savannah College of Art and Design.
Lehosit was building up a background of experience to strengthen his art, his father said. The young man travelled widely — to Alaska, Spain and France — and explored locally.
He loved live music. On the day he died, Lehosit and a friend had come to Clearwater to see a concert by the band WeakSauce. They were on their way to the house of one of the band members before the show when the crash occurred.
Lehosit's parents wrote to the state attorney prosecuting the case.
"Please, do everything in your power to ensure that Casey Felix Schwartz is sentenced to the maximum allowed penalty for killing our son," the letter begins. "Mr. Schwartz's actions have more than demonstrated his contempt for society's laws and his total disregard for the lives of others."
They also filed suit July 31 against Schwartz and his parents.
Schwartz was being held in jail Friday in lieu of $20,000 bail.
Jonathan Abel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4157.