LAKELAND -- Polk sheriff's deputies have arrested a Brandon woman who they say retrieved the car keys for her drunk friend, just minutes before a DUI crash that killed another motorist.
The sheriff's office says 45-year-old Michelle English had been out drinking with her friend, Lucretia Bruno, on the night of November 24th. They had stopped at two north Lakeland bars and Bruno had driven on to a Wawa convenience store, where she is seen on video (below) having trouble using her credit card and standing up. Sheriff Grady Judd says Bruno lost her car keys in the bathroom. A clerk obtained the keys and wouldn't give them back. Police later told the clerk not to give Bruno back her keys until the next morning.
"She was intoxicated, she was smashed, she was ripped, she was drunk, she was everything you could think of," Judd says.
But right after officers left, Judd says, English went to the clerk and got Bruno's keys. The clerk thought English was going to give them to Bruno the next morning. Instead, she gave them to Bruno as she sat behind the wheel of her own car in the parking lot. Nine minutes later, Judd says, Bruno drove onto the shoulder of Interstate 4 and struck and killed a motorist who was waiting at the scene of an earlier accident.
"(English) directly contributed to the death of our victim by allowing Mrs. Bruno to have those keys and to drive away," Judd says.
Now English is charged with "culpable negligent manslaughter." Judd says it's the first time they've brought this charge against someone who wasn't the driver in Polk County since at least the mid-20th century. The sheriff hopes to put both women in prison, perhaps the same prison, he speculates, where they could have a conversation about each of their mistakes.
Bruno's blood alcohol level was .207 at the time of the crash, according to the sheriff. The threshold for DUI for those over 21 is .08.
See surveillance video below