TAMPA — A judge sentenced Cameron Herrin to 24 years in state prison Thursday night, almost three years after the young man sped along Bayshore Boulevard and crashed into a mother and daughter, killing both.
Hillsborough Circuit Judge Christopher Nash’s decision came at the end of a long day of testimony, which saw Herrin’s family members and friends take the witness stand to talk about his character, before a parade of family members of the two victims voiced their heartbreak and rage at the damage done to their lives.
“It’s impossible to have greater harm than occurred in this case,” the judge said.
Herrin, 21, appeared wide-eyed as the judge announced his fate. Afterward, as a sheriff’s deputy placed him in handcuffs, members of his family began to weep.
When her son called that day in 2018, Cheryl Herrin could hear that he was crying, she testified earlier in the day. He told her he’d been in an accident.
“Mom,” he said. “I’ve killed someone.”
“No, Cameron,” she said. “You’re mistaken.”
But she stayed on the phone long enough to drive to the scene on Bayshore Boulevard. She saw the Ford Mustang, a gift she and her husband had given her son when he graduated two days earlier from Tampa Catholic High School. She saw him on his hands and knees in the grassy median.
Herrin last year pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide in the deaths of Jessica Reisinger-Raubenolt and her 1-year-old daughter, Lillia.
“I feel responsible for this accident,” Cheryl Herrin told the judge. “If I could, I would step in front of Cameron, and I would accept the punishment you might render.”
Then, in the afternoon, came the victims’ family.
“They can comfort their children,” said Pamela Reisinger, Jessica’s mother and Lillia’s grandmother, of the Herrins. “They can comfort and hug them. I go to a closet and sniff a T-shirt. I go to a baby picture and stroke her cheeks to comfort her.”
“Do you know what it’s like to prepare for a deceased loved one’s birthday?” Brian Raubenolt, Jessica’s brother-in-law and Lillia’s uncle, asked of Herrin. “Do you know what it’s like to whisper into a dying toddler’s ears, ‘I promise I will always take care of your dad?’ ... You did this to us, Cameron. You killed them.”
Herrin, then 18, headed out that morning — May 23, 2018 — with a friend, John Barrineau, to exercise at a local gym. Herrin’s older brother, Tristan, rode in the Mustang’s passenger seat. Barrineau, then 17, drove separately in a gold Nissan.
The cars stopped for a traffic light at Gandy Boulevard, then sped north on Bayshore. Other drivers and bystanders would later tell police the pair appeared to be racing. The cars were at times parallel to each other as they shifted between the two lanes.
Reisinger-Raubenolt, 24, who was visiting Tampa from Ohio, was walking back from Ballast Point Park that morning along the iconic boulevard to a relative’s home. In a stroller, she pushed Lillia. At the intersection of Knights Avenue, she moved to cross the roadway. The cars approached.
The Nissan swerved to avoid the young mother as she stepped out, one witness said. The Mustang moved to avoid the Nissan and struck the woman and her child.
In court, Assistant State Attorney Aaron Hubbard presented data from the Mustang’s navigation system, which recorded multiple speeding incidents in the days before the crash. It recorded one speed of 162 mph on May 18 along Interstate 75. On May 22, the car reached 84 mph along Bayshore.
On the 23rd, the car topped 100 mph moments before the crash. It then rapidly decelerated. A Tampa police detective testified that the car was moving between 30 and 40 mph at the time of impact.
David Raubenolt, the widower and father of Lillia, spoke for an hour about the loss he has endured. He recalled driving toward the home where they were staying that day, seeing traffic backed up, thinking something terrible had happened. He began praying for a stranger.
He spoke of his wife. She was a woman who loved children and had natural parenting skills. She was a parent who passed out notes to airplane passengers, apologizing if their child started to cry. She was a woman who believed in staying strong through diet and had studied nutrition in college.
He spoke of how he sweats when he enters his daughter’s room, where a baby’s crib remains untouched. He spoke of seeing his two young nephews playing together and picturing the ghostly image of his daughter, trying to imagine what toys she would play with, what songs she would sing.
He spoke of candlelight vigils and the loss to the community.
“I want you to never forget that you have caused thousands of people to cry,” Raubenolt said.
The victims’ family members all said they wanted the maximum sentence.
Wearing black, pausing at times to weep or sip water, Cheryl Herrin said her family has suffered, too.
Cameron Herrin’s older brother, Tristan, was with him when the crash happened. When both got out of jail, their father had to sleep near them in a spare bedroom because they were so distraught, she said.
“They saw and continue to see the accident play over and over and over,” she said. “I’ll hear screams at night from both boys. They have anxiety attacks and panic attacks.”
Cameron Herrin has lost weight and loses sleep, his mother said. He’s sought help from a therapist.
The tragedy captivated Tampa in a way that local crimes seldom do. It happened on a stretch of road regarded as symbolic of the city itself.
Bayshore — with its million-dollar mansions and high-rise condominiums that stand opposite a grassy, tree-lined median and a 4.5-mile sidewalk and balustrade that hugs Hillsborough Bay — is unlike any other roads in Tampa. It is both a busy thoroughfare between South Tampa and downtown, and a popular spot for walkers, runners, bicyclists and skaters.