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Clearwater Beach fatal crash leads to a DUI manslaughter charge for an Ohio man

CLEARWATER — Nine months after the car crash that killed 21-year-old Cristobal Cordano, an Ohio man has been charged with DUI manslaughter.

Mario Ghiloni, 26, was served with the warrant Tuesday. Authorities believe Ghiloni's blood alcohol concentration was as high as 0.114 when he made a left turn in front of Cordano's oncoming car on Clearwater Beach last May, causing the fatal crash.

The arrest was a long time in coming, said Cordano's mother, Diane Peasley, but it did little to ease the pain of losing her son.

"I thought I'd have this big relief once he was arrested," she said Wednesday. "But it's just kind of like not there yet. I know this is the first step."

According to authorities, at 6:23 p.m. on May 5, Cordano was headed south with a passenger on Mandalay Avenue near Rockaway Street on Clearwater Beach.

Ghiloni was coming north on Mandalay with a female passenger, Kayla Smith, the two of them visiting from Ohio. According to police accounts, Ghiloni made an abrupt left-hand turn in front of Cordano's car causing the crash.

Cordano was transported to Morton Plant Hospital where he died shortly after. His passenger, Deavon Rudd, suffered non-life-threatening injuries. An initial report said they were not wearing their seat belts, but Peasley said the bruise on her son's left shoulder proves that his seat belt was on.

Ghiloni, meanwhile, was taken to Bayfront Medical Center, where he was interviewed by police. At the hospital, authorities said, he showed signs of alcohol impairment. His eyes were bloodshot and watery. He mumbled his words. And he had a slight odor of alcohol, the report said.

A blood draw at the hospital showed an alcohol concentration of 0.072. The legal limit at which a driver is presumed impaired is 0.08, but police asked the medical examiner's office to "extrapolate" backward to the time of the crash. That estimate placed his blood alcohol concentration in the range of 0.100 to 0.105.

Ghiloni is being held at the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $75,000 bail.

Peasley and attorney Tom Carey also have filed a civil suit against Ghiloni and his mother, Mae Ghiloni, who owned the car.

Cordano, a graduate of East Lake High School, was a popular young man, who played football and lacrosse. He wore No. 8, after his father.

Four-hundred and sixty-five people attended his funeral, his mother said. And in the days after his death, more than 100 voice messages were left on his cell phone.

Peasley said her son was the first in the state to undergo a frontal lobectomy to correct epilepsy. That surgery took place in 2003.

At the time of his death, Cordano was interested in becoming a pediatrician. He had taken some general classes at St. Petersburg College and had taken a few semesters off to work various jobs, his mother said.

"The thing that really makes it okay sometimes is when you run into people who really knew him," Peasley said. "I'm finding out that everybody knew my son."

Jonathan Abel can be reached at or (727) 445-4157.

Clearwater Beach fatal crash leads to a DUI manslaughter charge for an Ohio man 02/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 4, 2009 10:15pm]
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