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How Much Tolerance Acceptable for Drunk Driving? VIDEO REPORT

SPRING HILL – On January 9th, 911 dispatchers received multiple calls from witnesses, reporting an overturned vehicle on Elgin Blvd near Fenian Drive. The woman behind the wheel, Lorretta Jean Knowles, was not seriously injured but was transported to a local hospital for treatment.

Prior to the accident, witnesses at the Shell Gas Station, located at the corner of Elgin Blvd and Barclay Ave, reported a woman driving erratically around the parking lot. That woman turned out to be Lorretta Knowles and witnesses say she appeared to be highly intoxicated.

RNRF obtained 911 recordings, which describes witness accounts of Knowles condition, at the time of the crash. One man says Knowles admitted to drinking before getting behind the wheel and crashing her vehicle (CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE FULL VIDEO REPORT).

According to witness Alyson Rhode, Knowles almost struck her and her family, while they were at the gas station; however, Knowles drove off before she could do anything to stop her. Rhode talked to Knowles husband who had been left behind, then transported him towards the scene of the accident. While en route, Knowles husband admitted they had both been drinking all day, and apologized for his wife’s actions.

The following day we received an official accident report from the Florida Highway Patrol, expecting to find Knowles charged with driving under the influence. Not the case, according to Trooper Robert Zinsor who led the investigation. Zinser says there was no indication of alcohol or drug use, so he did not request a blood draw from hospital personnel. When we presented our information to the FHP, Trooper Zinser said “When I spoke to the husband at the scene there was no mention of DUI issues.”

Upon closer inspection of Trooper Zinser’s report, we observed discrepancies in the diagram of Knowles path of travel (See Diagrams Below). Zinser’s diagram shows Knowles making a sharp right turn from Elgin Blvd and then striking a tree. From there she struck one utility pole and a power junction box.

That’s not what happened, according to evidence at the scene. Our video clearly shows that Knowles continued driving straight as the road curved, causing her to strike not one utility pole, but two. The vehicle even left obvious signs of a collision, in the form of a large area of green paint on the side of the pole.  And the tree that Zinser says Knowles struck; was not struck at all.

According to an FHP spokesperson, Trooper Zinser acquired video from the Shell Station, allegedly showing Knowles’ erratic driving, but after several weeks and numerous requests, RNRF has yet to receive that video.

We asked the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office what information they may have regarding the accident, but they declined to comment; stating they did not complete a report.

We spoke to Assistant State Attorney, Chris Nichol’s, who is assigned to review the case and tried to provide our evidence. Nichol’s seemed uninterested in reviewing our findings and just said “You can drop it off if you wanted to.”

Because a blood draw was not conducted at the time of the accident, Knowles will not face charges of driving under the influence; however, she was cited for careless driving.

A similar incident took place on January 16th, after a hit and run occurred on Cortez Blvd and Sunshine Grove Road. About 30 minutes later, the driver suspected of causing the first accident was involved in a second collision on Cortez Blvd, near Candia Street. The driver, 46-year-old Donald Verricchio and his unidentified female passenger were both injured and taken to local hospital for treatment.

Even though Verrecchio admitted to officials that he had been drinking, like the previous story, no Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) testing was conducted. When we asked officials why; they provided the following statement “The Trooper assigned to the case did not come out until 10:00 P.M. He did not make contact with the driver until 2:00 A.M. so too much time had passed to make a DUI charge. The driver admitted to drinking, but his admission can’t be used to file a charge.”

Verrecchio was charged with Hit and Run, Driving without a License, and Smuggling Contraband into a Detention Center.



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