Palm Beach County

Judge Rejects Plea Deal for 18-Year-Old in Fatal South Florida Crash

Christopher Garrett was 17 last July when police said he stole a sports utility vehicle from Rapids Water Park and drove at speeds reaching more than 100 mph

WPTV-TV

A Florida judge has rejected a plea deal reached by prosecutors and an attorney for an 18-year-old man accused of killing four people in a traffic crash last year.

Palm Beach Circuit Judge Howard Coates said Monday the 10-year prison sentence the defense and prosecution agreed to last month is too lenient. He told the lawyers to either reach a new deal for Christopher Garrett Jr. or to prepare the case for trial, the Palm Beach Post reported.

“We’re talking about four deaths. We’re talking about four destroyed families, and I just have some real issues with only a 10-year sentence," the judge said.

Garrett was 17 last July when police said he stole a sports utility vehicle from Rapids Water Park and drove at speeds reaching more than 100 mph (161 kph). He ran a red light and slammed into another SUV that was making a turn.

The state attorney's office chose to prosecute Garrett as an adult. He faces charges of vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter and grand theft for his role in the July 2021 high-speed crash that killed Jay’Oni Leonard, 14, Alexia Simpson, 17, Elizabeth Anderson, 62, and George Nienhouse, 65.

West Palm Beach police had spotted the vehicle and attempted to stop it before determining the chase had become too dangerous, according to law enforcement records.

Under the agreement, Garrett would have pleaded guilty to two counts each of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide and one count of grand theft auto. His driver's license would have also been revoked, court records said.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 27.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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