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Driver who fatally struck skateboarder last year sentenced to 10 years in prison

Published Sep. 17, 2016

A 23-year-old man who pleaded guilty to fatally striking a skateboarder last year in Madeira Beach was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday.

On May 8, 2015, Sterling Hubbard was driving a Dodge Ram when he left his job at Papa John's about 9:30 p.m. He went to a Taco Bell and later to a bar, where he had two beers and a shot, said Assistant State Attorney Benjamin Kanoski.

After leaving the bar, Hubbard headed north on Gulf Boulevard, near 129th Avenue, at 1:42 a.m. when he struck Emma Keown, who was skateboarding north on the road. Hubbard kept driving.

Keown, 20, of Clermont died at St. Petersburg General Hospital.

Doug Keown, Emma's father, said his daughter was cheerful, part of her high school's swim team and was going to a community college. Weeks before her death, she told her dad she wanted to major in psychology and criminal justice. She loved doing handstands on the beach.

"They told me I wouldn't be able to touch her as her body was still considered a crime scene," said Karen Farlow, Emma's mother. "Leaving her at the hospital was the hardest thing to do."

Hubbard was charged with leaving the scene of a crash involving death.

During his sentencing hearing Friday, Hubbard's loved ones described his history of mental illness.

Hubbard also took the stand and said he suffered from a major panic attack during the crash. After hearing of Emma's death, his anxiety worsened and he thought about suicide, he said.

"I couldn't believe what had happened. It felt like I didn't deserve to live. It didn't make sense," he said. "It should have been me."

Contact Laura C. Morel at Follow @lauracmorel.