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DUI trial opens for driver in car crash

A Citrus woman is accused of driving north in U.S. 301's southbound lanes and striking a car, killing the other driver.

By CHASE SQUIRES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 7, 2002

DADE CITY -- On a crisp December night, nearly two years ago, 68-year-old Maria Krilly Lindsay drove her pickup truck north in the southbound lanes of U.S. 301 -- against the flow of traffic for more than a mile.

Then she slammed into an oncoming car. The wreck killed the 76-year-old driver, Gerald DeLong.

As Lindsay's DUI manslaughter trial began Wednesday, jurors were offered two versions of what happened.

Prosecutor Phil Van Allen and his witnesses described a drunken, belligerent woman. Police found a half-full beer can rolling around on her floorboard. She failed roadside sobriety tests and had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the level the state uses to presume impairment. She cursed emergency room workers, exposed herself to passing nurses and claimed it was DeLong who was at fault.

Her public defender told jurors she drank only one beer that night. She was just a confused old lady who took a wrong turn on her way home from Tampa's Seminole Indian casino, wandering unfamiliar roads until she found herself lost in a strange town miles from her Homosassa home in Citrus County.

At stake is a 10-year prison sentence if Lindsay, now 70, is convicted.

"She's speeding. She's drinking. She's going the wrong way on the road, in the dark," Van Allen told the four women and two men on the jury. "She should not have been driving a motor vehicle . . . The reason that any of this occurred is that Maria Lindsay was driving drunk."

"She wasn't drinking," public defender Dillon Vizcarra countered. "You're not criminally at fault when you're lost. You're not criminally at fault when you're confused. You're not a criminal when you're tired."

As Van Allen presented a parade of witnesses, including police, Lindsay often shook her head or whispered to Vizcarra. Occasionally she succumbed to coughing fits that disrupted testimony.

Once, during Van Allen's opening statement, she whispered, "That's not true."

Witnesses testified they saw Lindsay in her white Ford Ranger pickup about 9 p.m. on Dec. 3, 2000, driving north in the southbound lanes of U.S. 301 from Clinton Avenue toward downtown Dade City.

As she crested a hill just south of the U.S. 98 bypass, she crashed into DeLong's Chrysler.

The impact pinned DeLong inside his car. Nearly all of his ribs were crushed. He was airlifted to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he died of internal injuries three days later.

Police said Lindsay refused to give a blood sample at a hospital, and they had to hold her arm down while blood was drawn.

The sample showed her blood alcohol level at 0.18 percent. The state presumes impairment at 0.08 percent.

Lindsay was charged with DUI manslaughter and manslaughter by culpable negligence.

She has been free on $5,000 bail since shortly after her arrest.

Trial is scheduled to continue today.

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