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Hernando teacher charged with DUI manslaughter

SPRING HILL — A Spring Hill Elementary School teacher who was once taken for evaluation under the Baker Act was arrested last week and charged with DUI manslaughter in connection with a fatal January crash.

Oxycodone was coursing through Robert M. McCraw's system when, authorities say, his 1992 Cadillac ran a red light and smashed into a Spring Hill couple's Toyota on the afternoon of Jan. 3.

Christa Breymann, 76, suffered fractures of her left arm, sternum, hip and pelvis. Her husband, 75-year-old Ludolf Breymann, was killed.

The Breymanns would have celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary this year.

Bail for McCraw, 43, who has been on leave from his teaching job since February, was reduced from $61,000 to $30,500 during a hearing Thursday morning. Records show he was still being held in the Hernando County Detention Center on Thursday afternoon.

Christa Breymann will now likely lose her home because, without her husband, she can no longer pay the mortgage. She strongly objected to the bond reduction and said she didn't understand why McCraw should have the opportunity to walk free at all.

"I think his bond is low enough for killing someone," she said prior to Thursday's hearing. "My husband's death, he caused that."

McCraw, who does not have a criminal history in Florida, joined the Hernando school district as an exceptional education teacher in 1997 and came to Spring Hill Elementary in 2000.

Personnel records indicate his professional and personal life derailed late last year. In a Nov. 10, 2010, memo to district officials, Spring Hill principal Marvin Gordon said McCraw appeared to be "in a daze" that morning. In a separate memo, assistant principal Terry Dewey wrote that he looked "spaced out."

McCraw said he was taking four different prescription medications. He was ordered to take a drug test. The results are redacted from records, but it's clear from summary notes of a conference with Gordon and Dewey days later that the results were negative for illegal drugs.

During that conference, McCraw said his doctor continued to increase his medication dosage "so it would have an effect on his pain and that over years of doing this his prescribed dosage had become quite large," according to the summary notes. The types of medications are redacted from the notes.

McCraw said his wife suspected he was on illegal drugs and had packed her things with plans to leave if the drug test came back positive. He told school officials he was "not in the right mental state to handle things."

Authorities took McCraw into custody under the Baker Act, according to the meeting notes, leading him away in handcuffs and prompting students to ask school staffers what he had done. The state act allows law enforcement officers to take someone for mental evaluation who appears likely to harm himself or others.

After a psychiatric exam, McCraw was declared fit for duty and returned to work. The crash occurred two days before the end of winter break, but McCraw was not seriously injured and returned to the classroom.

On Jan. 31, McCraw's co-teacher and school administrators noticed that his speech was slurred and that he struggled to stand up straight and stay awake, records show. During a hearing a few days later, McCraw again blamed his multiple medications, stating that he had "begun the weaning process with my pain management doctor," according to summary notes.

He told school officials he had been seeing a pain management doctor since 2000.

After the meeting, McCraw went on leave with the intention of entering a residential facility, though the type was redacted from records.

"I need to keep my job and be levelheaded," he told officials that day. "I've found that I'm less levelheaded on my medications."

Times news researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Reach John Woodrow Cox at (352) 848-1432 or jcox@tampabay.com. Reach Tony Marrero at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@tampabay.com.

Hernando teacher charged with DUI manslaughter 12/08/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 8, 2011 8:04pm]
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