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Judge: Driver did not use due care in walker's death

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

Family members of the woman killed in the accident wanted a stronger charge against the man, but they said they were satisfied with the penalties imposed by the judge.

An East Lake motorist failed to use due care while driving through the Boot Ranch subdivision on the morning of March 1, a judge ruled this week.

As a result, driver Peter Szwez struck and killed Teresa M. Cerrato, who was out for her morning walk.

Judge Michael F. Andrews ruled Monday that Szwez, 22, must complete an advanced driver improvement course, perform 120 hours of community service and pay $750 in fines. Szwez also will lose his driver's license for a year.

He has appealed Andrews' ruling.

Cerrato's family had hoped that the Florida Highway Patrol, which investigated the accident, would charge Szwez with something stronger than failure to use due care. But they said they were satisfied with the penalties imposed by Andrews.

"I don't know if there's ever an appropriate punishment for taking someone's life," said Cerrato's daughter, Anne Marie Cerrato-Elliott. "The judge did what he could."

Szwez could not be reached for comments and his attorneys did not return telephone calls.

The accident happened about 7 a.m. as Szwez was heading east on S Boot Ranch Boulevard out of the Nature's Watch section of Boot Ranch. Cerrato, 71, was walking south across the road and was only 3{ feet from completing the crossing when she was struck by Szwez's Honda Civic.

She died shortly after the accident at Mease Countryside Hospital.

Szwez told troopers that the sun, which had risen about seven minutes before the accident, was shining in his eyes. He also had his windshield wipers on to remove dew from his windshield, according to the accident report.

Troopers calculated that Szwez could not have been traveling faster than 30 mph when the accident happened, although Cerrato's family has questioned that conclusion.

Three months after the accident, Szwez was charged with reckless driving, driving under the influence and racing on a highway after sheriff's deputies said they spotted him zigzagging in traffic at 94 mph in a 45 mph zone on East Lake Road. He refused a breath or blood alcohol test.

Cerrato's daughter and husband, Vincent, say they plan to attend Szwez's hearings on those other charges. They also have hired an engineer to reconstruct what happened the morning that Cerrato was killed, hoping to challenge the FHP report.

"We will go to the lengths to have this accident put together the way it happened," Cerrato-Elliott said.

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