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Cyclist pleads guilty in death

A 52-year-old New Port Richey man who lost control of his motorcycle during a police chase last year, sending his female passenger to her death, pleaded guilty Monday to vehicular homicide.

Hernando County Circuit Judge Jack Springstead sentenced Michael H. Schmidt of 11705 Key Lime Drive to 11{ years in prison. Schmidt, who has an extensive criminal history, pleaded guilty as a habitual offender.

"He's got a long record," Assistant State Attorney Bill Catto said after the sentencing. "Felonies, misdemeanors, mostly property crimes, some violent crimes."

On Nov. 20, 2001, Schmidt was wanted on 14 felony warrants out of Citrus, Hernando and Pasco counties when officers saw him run a red light at Cortez and Mariner boulevards in Spring Hill. Donna Charron, 51, who lived with Schmidt, was riding on the back of the motorcycle.

As deputies began pursuit, Schmidt fled. Witnesses say Charron pounded on Schmidt's back, urging him to stop. He sped into Mariner Square shopping plaza, where, attempting to turn onto a service road, his Harley-Davidson struck a concrete curb, authorities said.

Both Schmidt and Charron were thrown from the motorcycle, which came to rest on its right side and slid about 40 feet before stopping. Schmidt suffered minor injuries. Charron was flown by helicopter to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. She had a broken back, broken ribs, broken legs and no brain activity.

Soon after the accident, Charron's family asked that she be taken off life support; she died a day later.

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