Party-House Mom Facing Manslaughter Charges

A St. Johns Circuit Judge has refused to dismiss manslaughter charges against a 51-year-old woman accused of letting teens drink in her house and doing nothing to stop it.

The Judge said that the woman’s actions “set in motion a chain of events” that ended with the January 11 deaths of an 18-year-old and a 17-year-old.

The two St. Johns County teens were leaving a party at the woman’s home. Friends say they were too drunk to get behind the wheel of a 1991 Ford Thunderbird. The car veered off State Road 13 near Orangedale and hit some trees, bursting into flames. Both teens died. The driver’s blood alcohol level was 0.18, more than twice the legal limit.

The woman’s attorney says that allowing someone to leave your home intoxicated does not merit a manslaughter charge and her defense will be that the kids arrived at her house already intoxicated.

But prosecutors say the woman allowed, provided, or encouraged minors to drink alcohol at the house party and smoke marijuana. And they say this was not the first party hosted by this particular woman, according to prosecutors. She is alleged to have hosted parties in September, two in December 2008, as well as the one in January.

Florida Statute 856 says no person who controls a residence shall allow an open house party to take place where minors, under the age of 21, are consuming alcoholic beverages or drugs. Violators can face up to 6 months in prison, unless there is a death. Florida’s Dram Shop Act, imposes a duty of care on the social host or bar owner to take some reasonable action to prevent anyone under the age of 21 from drinking.

The woman in this case is facing two counts of manslaughter, four counts of hosting an open house party and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Her pre-trial date is scheduled for December 1.

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