A jury in Florida recently found Rebecca Ann Padowitz, 24, guilty of DUI manslaughter for the April 2012 car crash that killed Rona Lavon Hawkins, 28. Padowitz could face up to 15 years in prison. She will be sentenced in April.
According to a report in the Apalachicola Times, Padowitz was driving a 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee owned by Hawkins on April 17, 2012 when the vehicle spun out. After losing control, the Jeep flipped over and struck a tree before bursting into flames.
Hawkins died at the scene. A passenger in the back seat, Julian Kenneth Collins, 33, was able to pull Padowitz from the vehicle. She was then life-flighted to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. Collins escaped from the accident unharmed.
Police reports say that Padowitz had a blood-alcohol content of .17 at the time of the accident. The three had spent the day at a nearby beach celebrating Padowitz’s 23rd birthday and admitted to consuming alcohol. Collins told officers that he was the only one wearing a seat belt.
Padowitz denied being the driver of the vehicle to Florida Highway Patrol officers. Collins, who witnessed Padowitz operating the vehicle, was called on to testify. Investigators were also able to conclude that it was “more feasible” that Pandowitz was driving the vehicle when it crashed based on the position of the driver’s seat.