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Woman who crashed into trooper during Skyway 10K deemed incompetent for trial

The woman, 52-year-old Kristen Kay Watts, was arrested on multiple charges after the crash.
Kristen Watts was arrested on multiple charges after she crashed into a Florida Highway Patrol trooper head-on. A judge determined this week that she is incompetent to stand trial.
Kristen Watts was arrested on multiple charges after she crashed into a Florida Highway Patrol trooper head-on. A judge determined this week that she is incompetent to stand trial. [ Florida Highway Patrol ]
Published Jun. 2|Updated Jun. 2

The Sarasota woman who crashed head-on into a Florida Highway Patrol trooper on the Sunshine Skyway during the bridge’s annual 10-kilometer race has been deemed incompetent to stand trial.

A motion in the court case of Kristen Kay Watts said she “does not possess the mental capacity to proceed.” The motion specified that Watts’ attorneys weren’t able to communicate facts about the case to her and there were doubts she could “understand the nature of the proceedings.”

A judge agreed that she is incompetent to head to trial. People who are designated incompetent are routinely provided mental health treatment to try to make them competent for trial.

A physician who examined Watts said she worried about the 52-year-old’s mental health and competence to make informed decisions or give informed consent, the motion said.

Watts was arrested March 8 on a charge of DUI serious injury, DUI damage to property and fleeing a law enforcement officer.

The Florida Highway Patrol's Chevy Tahoe that was heavily damaged after the crash near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on March 8.
The Florida Highway Patrol's Chevy Tahoe that was heavily damaged after the crash near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on March 8. [ The Florida Highway Patrol ]

The Florida Highway Patrol says Watts sped past a number of road closure signs around 9 a.m. on race day while driving from Manatee County toward the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, where 8,000 runners were spread about.

To keep Watts from reaching runners, Trooper Toni Schuck rammed her Chevrolet Tahoe head-on into Watts’ 2011 BMW 335i. The Highway Patrol released a dramatic dash cam video from the Tahoe showing the collision.

Related: Drunk driver in Skyway 10K crash was 3 times over legal limit, troopers say

Watts tried to run away from the crash scene, troopers said, but she was detained by nearby officers. An arrest affidavit said Watts was taken to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. A trooper who accompanied her in the ambulance said her breath smelled of alcohol, her speech was slurred and she had bloodshot, watery eyes.

The arrest affidavit said Watts recorded a blood-alcohol level more than three times the level at which Florida law says people are too impaired to drive.

Florida Highway Patrol trooper Toni Schuck talks with the media at the FHP's Suncoast Parkway Operations Center on March 10.
Florida Highway Patrol trooper Toni Schuck talks with the media at the FHP's Suncoast Parkway Operations Center on March 10. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Trooper Schuck, a 26-year veteran of the Highway Patrol, was treated at the same hospital as Watts for injuries including a concussion and cuts to the head. Schuck spoke with the media just days after the crash and expressed gratitude for her Tahoe, crediting it with saving her life.

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Others, meanwhile, praised to Schuck for her role in potentially saving countless lives.

“She’s a hero, simple as that,” 29-year-old Stephanie Schwent of Brandon told the Tampa Bay Times in March. “That officer is the reason people like me can run across a bridge for fun, knowing we’ll be safe.”

Watts remains in custody at the Port Manatee County Jail’s medical unit, the motion said. Her attorney did not return a message seeking comment.

Related: Trooper says she was last line of defense as driver neared Skyway 10K runners
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