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Driver in fatal crash charged with DUI manslaughter

TAMPA — A Valrico man accused of causing a fatal head-on collision has turned himself in at the Hillsborough County Jail to face DUI manslaughter charges.

Shawn Mowery, 20, of 2710 Briarpatch Drive was charged this week after the Florida Highway Patrol completed its investigation into a crash in Thonotosassa six months ago.

The wreck occurred Feb. 8 when Mowery, driving a 2000 Honda Civic north on U.S. 301, crossed the center line near Stacy Road and crashed head-on into a southbound 2003 Toyota Corolla driven by 60-year-old Nancy Hnat of Lakeland, according to the Highway Patrol.

Both were taken to Tampa General Hospital, where Hnat died three hours later, the patrol said.

Mowery's blood-alcohol level was 0.184, more than twice the point at which someone is presumed to be intoxicated under Florida law, the patrol said. Mowery's attorney, Paul Duval Johnson, disputes that figure and says it wasn't that high.

When investigators completed their work, they submitted a warrant for his arrest on driving under the influence manslaughter charges, and a judge signed it, the patrol said.

Mowery was being held at the Orient Road Jail on Friday on DUI manslaughter and related charges, with bail set at $25,000.

When contacted at their home in Ohio, his grandparents, Richard and Carole Mowery, said their grandson lives with his mother, and his father is working in Iraq for General Dynamics.

Last year, Mowery attended Nyack College, a Christian liberal arts school in New York, on a full scholarship, but returned to Florida and planned to attend a local community college this year, they said. He wanted to be a writer, they added.

Hnat's best friend and lifelong companion, Lillian Groth, said she was "breathless" when told Friday about the charges against Mowery. "We didn't know this," she said. "I am very glad."

Groth and Hnat's family had been following the case and were about to check in with investigators for an update.

Hnat was a compliance manager for Gentiva Health Services, a home health agency in Tampa, Groth said. She was on her way to work, taking back roads to avoid traffic on Interstate 4, when the crash occurred.

"This has been very difficult for all of us," Groth said. "She was an exceptional person."

A bedside nurse for more than 25 years before she moved into administration, Hnat was the type of person who dropped everything to help family and friends, Groth said. When Hnat's brother's first wife was dying of cancer, she helped take care of her, Groth said.

"She would always be there to help everyone out," she said.

Saundra Amrhein can be reached at amrhein@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2441.

Driver in fatal crash charged with DUI manslaughter 08/29/08 [Last modified: Saturday, September 6, 2008 2:38pm]
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