This afternoon, the woman responsible for the death of Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Christopher Taylor, was sentenced to 29 years in prison.
Cassandra Diane Smith was adjudicated guilty of DUI Manslaughter, Vehicular Homicide, and two counts of DUI – Damage Person/Property. She was convicted on the charges in December, following a trial in Charlotte County. The prison sentence will be followed by one year of probation. She also had her driver’s license permanently revoked. She must pay $799 in restitution to the citizen who was injured in the crash, $13,875 in restitution to the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office for the patrol car that was totaled in the crash, the cost of prosecution and court costs.
Assistant State Attorneys Martin Stark and Mara Marzano, of the State Attorney’s Office Traffic Homicide Unit, prosecuted the case.
“I hope this sentence provides some sense of justice for the family, friends, and law enforcement family, of Deputy Taylor. My thoughts are with them all today. I also want this sentence to be a reminder to anyone who makes the decision to drive under the influence of alcohol, that your actions can have an devastating and tragic impact on others. Let us remember Deputy Taylor as a man dedicated to serving and protecting our community,” said State Attorney Amira Fox.
The crime happened on November 22, 2022, at approximately 8:44 p.m. Charlotte County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Taylor was conducting a traffic stop on I-75, near mile marker 163, in the shoulder of the northbound lane. He was standing in front of his fully marked Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicle, a Ford Explorer SUV, with the emergency lights activated. The Honda Civic he stopped, was parked on the shoulder of the interstate, on the grass, near the patrol vehicle. Both Deputy Taylor and the citizen, a Punta Gorda man, were standing in between the vehicles talking.
Witnesses indicated that a Jeep Wrangler traveled across three lanes of traffic and rotated clockwise towards the roadside where the traffic stop was being conducted. Smith’s jeep slammed into the parked patrol car, causing both vehicles to rotate, and hit Deputy Taylor and the other driver. Deputy Taylor was fatally injured, and the other driver was hurt. Other motorists immediately stopped to render aid.
A roadside witness told law enforcement that Smith seemed carefree and impaired. A responding Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) Trooper noticed a strong odor of alcohol on Smith and an inability of Smith to speak clearly – both of which are strong cues of impairment. Smith’s blood alcohol level was .258, more than three times the legal limit of .08.
Upon seizure of Smith’s vehicle, law enforcement confiscated four empty bottles of alcohol. FHP obtained video from a convenience store of the defendant buying alcohol a half hour prior to the crash. That specific alcohol was found under the Jeep at the crash scene. A straw in the can was tested as evidence and confirmed to have the defendant’s DNA on it.
Samantha Syoen – Communications Director, State Attorney’s Office