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Plant City Man Faces DUI Manslaughter Charge on Christmas Eve

By Ciara Perez, News Reporter | iSkyCreations - News & Media (ISC News)Published Dec 28th, 2023

Polk County, FL - In a devastating turn of events that has shaken the Lakeland community, a Christmas Eve celebration turned into a night of tragedy. Howard Bennett, a 67-year-old man from Plant City, faces serious charges after a fatal accident that claimed the life of a 40-year-old Lakeland woman.

The incident unfolded on the evening of December 24, 2023. Bennett, driving his 2019 silver Mazda CX5 down West Pipkin Road in Lakeland, tragically struck Leslie Stone. Stone, who was in a motorized wheelchair, was also heading east on the same road. The accident was a shocking and sudden end to what should have been a festive evening.

When deputies arrived at the scene, they noticed Bennett appeared to be in a troubling state. He was reportedly stumbling and had to lean on the patrol car for support. His eyes were bloodshot and watery, his speech slurred – all telltale signs that something was amiss. The unmistakable smell of alcohol on his breath only added to the deputies' suspicions.

Bennett underwent a field sobriety test and was subsequently taken into custody. The situation grew more serious when the results of his breathalyzer test came in – one sample showed .159 G/210 L and the other .158 G/210 L, both well over the legal limit of 0.08 G/210L.

Now, Bennett is facing multiple charges, including DUI Manslaughter (F2), DUI .15 or higher with property damage (M1), and DUI with property damage (M1). He's been booked into the Polk County Jail, and the community is left to grapple with the aftermath of this tragic incident.

Our prayers are with Ms. Stone's family. To lose a loved one this way is awfully tragic, but especially during the holiday season. We hope and pray our citizens will make better choices than this suspect did - please celebrate the holidays responsibly.” – Grady Judd, Sheriff


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