FROSTPROOF — Last March, a motor vehicle accident in Frostproof left two people dead, including a 73-year-old man and a 60-year-old woman.
On Friday, after months of investigation, a local man was arrested and charged in those deaths.
Gina Tutera, 34, of 4705 Josselin Place in Parrish, was located in Manatee County early this morning and booked into the Manatee County Jail. He has since bonded out.
He was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide in the traffic fatality that happened on March 21 this year.
Around 3:37 p.m. that day, deputies say, Tutera was heading eastbound on U.S. 98 east of Avon Park. He suddenly crossed over the double yellow line and entered into the westbound lanes, which is when he collided with a Ford Focus.
Inside that vehicle were Bobbie Herring, 73, the man driving the car, and his passenger, 60-year-old Karen Holmes.
The collision resulted in the deaths of both of them, and serious injury to Tutera as well.
Herring, who lived in Avon Park, and Holmes, of Lithia, had been driving westbound when the collision happened. At the time of the accident, deputies said it was unclear why Tutera’s car crossed over into the westbound lane where it smashed head-on into the Ford Focus.
Tutera — who was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of thhe crash, deputies say — was airlifted to Lakeland Regional Medical Center with critical injuries, although he recovered.
The passengers in the Ford Focus were not so lucky. Herring died en route to the hospital, while Holmes died at the scene of the accident. Deputies were unable to determine if either one had been wearing a seatbelt.
Nearly six months later, the investigation into the crash “revealed that Tutera was exceeding the speed limit by 20 miles per hour when he struck the victims,” noted Carrie Eleazer, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, in her report on the arrest. “He was traveling 80 miles per hour in a 60 mile per hour zone.”
The investigation also indicated that Tutera may have been sending and receiving text messages on his cell phone while he was driving.
“Tutera also sent or received 51 text messages and received two phone calls from the time he left his house at 2:25 p.m. until the time of the crash,” Eleazer said, adding that this constituted a violation of Florida’s statute against Reckless Driving.
He was also charged with vehicular homicide, Eleazer said, because his actions and violations of laws against speeding “resulted in the untimely death of both victims.”
She quoted from Florida’s State Statute 782.071 defining “Vehicular Homicide,” which states, “the killing of a human being caused by the operation of a motor vehicle by another in a reckless manner likely to cause the death of another.”
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