Lt. Bill Leeper speaks at a news conference with St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar (left) and 7th Judicial Circuit State Attorney R.J. Larizza (right).
On July 10, 2009, State Attorney R.J. Larizza held a joint news conference with the Florida Highway Patrol and St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office in St. Johns County to announce the arrest of an adult female who held open house party’s for teens to consume alcohol. Mr. Larizza stated that this was the first case in the state of Florida where someone was charged with manslaughter after holding an open house party where an attendee left, had a crash and was killed. He called it a “historic case” in the state of Florida.
On January 12, 2009, Florida Highway Patrol Corporal Greg Cohn investigated a fatal traffic crash involving two teens who were killed after their vehicle traveled off the roadway and struck a tree in St. Johns County. Toxicology results from the medical examiner indicated that the 18-year-old male driver had blood alcohol content (BAC) of .18 and the 17-year-old female passenger’s BAC was .09. It was later discovered by investigators that the two teens had just left a house party where alcohol was available.
Following a six-month joint investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol, St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office and the Office of the State Attorney of the 7th Judicial Circuit, the St. Johns County Grand Jury handed down a seven (7) count Indictment against an adult female who held the open house party where alcohol and drugs were available to underage teens.
According to investigative reports, it was determined that on or between September 26, 2008 and January 12, 2009, the adult female engaged in a course of conduct which fostered an environment and enabled minors to consume alcoholic beverages to excess, mixed with the use of marijuana and nitrous oxide (“whippets”). Further, the adult female was present during and participated in the illegal activities according to statements obtained by investigators. According to the charging affidavit, the adult female’s actions led directly to the death of a 17-year-old female and 18-year-old male when he lost control of his vehicle shortly after leaving the adult female’s residence.
The adult female was charged with the following:
- 2-counts of Manslaughter, a second degree felony
- 4-counts of Open House Party, a second degree misdemeanor
- 1-count of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, a first degree misdemeanor