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Woman accused of second fatal drunk driving crash to stay jailed

The state asked that Jennifer Carvajal be held in jail pending trial. A defense attorney did not contest the request.
A destroyed Hyundai Elantra sits in the parking lot of Gator Ford off Interstate 4 following an April 25 crash that left one dead and three injured. Jennifer Carvajal faces charges that include DUI manslaughter related to the crash.
A destroyed Hyundai Elantra sits in the parking lot of Gator Ford off Interstate 4 following an April 25 crash that left one dead and three injured. Jennifer Carvajal faces charges that include DUI manslaughter related to the crash. [ Florida Highway Patrol ]
Published May 10
Updated May 10

TAMPA — The woman accused for the second time of driving drunk and causing a fatal crash in Hillsborough County will stay in jail as she awaits trial.

An attorney for Jennifer Carvajal announced in a brief court hearing Monday that the defense would not contest the state’s request that she remain jailed without bail. Attorney Barry Taracks said he had made the decision after talking with Carvajal and her family.

“It will solve a lot of issues today, and we will address the ones in the future,” Taracks said in court.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Catherine Catlin ordered that Carvajal be held without bail on a DUI manslaughter charge.

Jennifer Carvajal, 24, appears in a live video from the Falkenburg Road Jail during  her pretrial detention hearing Monday in Hillsborough Circuit Court.
Jennifer Carvajal, 24, appears in a live video from the Falkenburg Road Jail during her pretrial detention hearing Monday in Hillsborough Circuit Court. [ Dan Sullivan ]

Carvajal, 24, appeared on a video screen from jail, wearing a medical mask, but did not speak. She faces several other charges related to the April 25 crash that killed her cousin, Pedro Carbajal, and left two other people with serious injuries.

She is also accused of violating her probation for a previous fatal drunk driving crash that occurred when she was 16.

Related: At 16, she drove drunk and killed a man. At 24, cops say she did it again.

In February 2014, Carvajal plowed a Lincoln Navigator into another car early one morning on N Alexander Street near Interstate 4 in Plant City.

Keith Allen Davis, 52, a newspaper delivery driver, was killed in that crash.

In an emotional 2015 sentencing hearing, a judge heard from her relatives and a mental health expert, who detailed her abusive upbringing.

Carvajal described feeling lost and broken, having sought to escape the pain of her childhood by drinking.

“One person paid the ultimate price for my selfish behavior,” she said then.

Noting her youth and expressions of remorse, a judge gave her five years in prison with probation to follow.

When she got out in 2019, she went to DACCO, a residential drug treatment facility in Tampa. But a few months later, she walked away, violating her probation.

Last summer, a judge warned of the consequences if she didn’t complete the requirements of her sentence. She was sent back to treatment with restrictions that included a curfew, a requirement to abstain from alcohol and drugs, and a permanent ban from driving.

At about 1:38 a.m. April 25, Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Jason Moore was heading east on Interstate 4 when he noticed a car on the westbound side moving at a high speed. His radar pegged it at 111 mph. Moore turned around and sped to catch up to the car, a silver Hyundai Elantra.

With lights flashing and siren blaring, the trooper pulled up behind the Hyundai near Mango Road. The car made an abrupt right turn, going off the road, up an embankment, then went airborne over a fence into the Gator Ford dealership lot. It landed on a truck, then overturned before smashing into a concrete pillar and a palm tree.

Pedro Carbajal, 22, and Lexcia Gonzalez, 20, were thrown from the vehicle and seriously injured. Carbajal died later that day at a hospital. Another passenger, Grady Ramirez, 19, was also severely injured.

After Moore got to the crash scene, he found Gonzalez on the ground. He asked if Pedro Carbajal had been the driver.

“No, she was driving,” Gonzalez said, according to a court paper filed by prosecutors. She pointed toward a fence where Carvajal stood.

Carvajal claimed she had arrived after the crash, according to the court paper. The trooper noted she was covered in broken glass and debris and had a number of cuts and scrapes. One injury to her left shoulder was described as angled toward her left hip and “consistent with a driver’s side seat belt having been utilized at the time of the crash,” the court paper states.

A medical blood sample taken from Carvajal a couple hours later showed her blood alcohol content at .10, slightly above the legal limit. Results of a legal blood sample remain pending.

Authorities have said they believe other people may have witnessed the crash, which occurred at about 1:38 a.m. in the parking lot of Gator Ford, off Interstate 4. The Florida Highway Patrol put out a call Friday for anyone who saw the crash, pulled over, called 911, or has any other information to contact them at (813) 558-1800.