A woman from Massachusetts was arrested Tuesday night after a DUI crash that killed a 23-year-old Charlotte County Sheriff’s deputy Christopher Taylor.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Deputy Taylor pulled over a Honda in the northbound lanes of I-75, south of US-17, around 8:45 p.m. Both the Honda and the CCSO vehicle were off on the paved shoulder of the road, and the deputy’s lights were on. Both the deputy and the Honda driver were outside of their vehicles.
30-year-old Cassandra Smith from Lakeville, Massachusetts, was driving north on I-75 when she lost control of her Jeep, crossed over three lanes and went onto the paved shoulder. She hit the deputy’s vehicle, which hit him, the driver of the Honda, and the Honda itself.
Deputy Taylor was taken to ShorePoint Health, where he later died. The driver of the Honda was also hospitalized with minor injuries.
Smith faces DUI manslaughter charges. She will go before a judge on Thursday.
Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell said Smith stayed on the scene after the crash and was the one who called 911.
Kacie Spiers, a friend of deputy Taylor spoke with WINK News and shared some thoughts about her friend.
“He’s always wanted a family and stuff. I feel bad he doesn’t get that opportunity now,” Spiers said.
“I know he just got started in the force. And it was something he wanted to do his whole life and he didn’t get the chance to do that,” Spiers said.
“It could happen, but you wouldn’t think that it would happen to someone you know, I guess. Yeah, still in shock,” Spiers said.
“He just always put people first. He had a caring heart,” Spiers said.
WINK News spoke with Lance Dunford, a criminal defense attorney, who said the punishment would be severe if Smith is convicted.
“This is a charge that’s going to score somebody, score to mandatory prison time. And there’s aggravators, without going through a law school dissertation on that, that will be added on to this type of charge because of there being a death. At a minimum, what somebody’s points would be is 124 and a half months, that would be required to be served in prison,” said Dunford.
This is the second time Smith has been arrested for DUI. The sheriff’s office says Smith had just finished a 12-month probation in August for a previous DUI arrest in Palm Beach County.
Smith could face “A maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, or a combination of 15 years of probation, and or a $10,000 fine not to exceed one another,” said Dunford.
The sheriff’s offices of Lee, DeSoto, Sarasota, and Osceola counties, as well as the police departments of Cape Coral, Fort Myers, and North Port, have offered their condolences to CCSO for its loss.
Sheriff Prummell released the following video statement about the deputy’s death on Facebook.
Deputy Taylor leaves behind his parents and a fiancee. The sheriff’s office said he had just celebrated his 23rd birthday. He joined the sheriff’s office in August 2021 and was officially sworn in on February 14.
Flags outside of the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office were lowered to half-staff. A memorial for Deputy Taylor has been set up in front of the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, and they say the public is welcome to come and pay their respects.