35 year old Melvin Douglas Hawthorne from Jay, FL was sentenced to 41 years in prison by Judge Goodman for DUI Manslaughter among other charges after he left the scene of a two vehicle accidents and causing a third accident on August 17, 2014.
On August 17, 2014, at approximately 9 p.m., Melvin Douglas Hawthorne was driving a 1998 Nissan Frontier west on State Road 4 in Jay, Florida. Mr. Hawthorne sideswiped a truck towing a boat while attempting to pass. Mr. Hawthorne then fled the scene of that crash, failed to stop at a stop sign, striking a guardrail. After crashing into the guardrail, Mr. Hawthorne reentered State Road 4 and continued traveling west. While fleeing the scene of the two crashes, he rear ended a 2002 Dodge Neon driven by Renee Russell. Also in the vehicle
with Renee Russell were Kevin McLaughlin, Shawn McLaughlin, Shannon McLaughlin, and Raistlin Bunch. Shawn McLaughlin died as a result of that crash, Raistlin Bunch received serious bodily injuries as a result of the crash caused by Melvin Hawthorne.
A search warrant for Melvin Hawthorne’s blood was applied for and granted for toxicology purposes at Sacred Heart Hospital. Toxicology testing indicated that methamphetamines were present in his system, and the levels of methamphetamines were deemed to cause impairment. DNA testing was also used to confirm that Melvin Hawthorne was the operator of the vehicle at the time of the crash. Further investigation revealed that Hawthorne was operating his vehicle at 83 miles per hour in a posted 55 speed zone.
Melvin Hawthorne was charged with DUI Manslaughter, DUI with serious bodily injury, DUI property damage, vehicular homicide, and driving with a suspended license causing death. The Florida Highway Patrol investigated the accidents and the case was prosecuted by ASA Jack Schlechter. On the last day of a three day trial, the jury was released to decide a verdict. After a few hours, the jury returned a verdict of guilty as charged on all five counts