PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — Nearly three decades in prison.
Six weeks after a Charlotte County jury convicted Cassandra Smith in the drunk
driving crash that killed deputy Christopher Taylor on I-75 in November 2022, the judge in the case sentenced Smith to 29 years in prison for her role in the crash.
The judge in the case combined two of the counts, Vehicular Homicide and DUI With Death To Human or Unborn Child, for the 29-year sentence to run them consecutively.
The deputy, only 23, was in the middle of a traffic stop on the highway, near the Jones Loop Road exit for the Punta Gorda Airport, when a car slammed into Taylor’s patrol car. He was standing outside of the car during the stop.
In her 911 call after the crash, Smith can be heard saying, “I think I may have killed a person” and “I’m pretty sure I just killed somebody.”
When the dispatcher asked her the make and model of the car, she laughed and said, “I have no idea, it’s a rental.”
The first image many people saw of Smith was of her smiling in her booking photo, hours after the deadly crash.
Alyssa St Laurent was Deputy Taylor's best friend. She spoke on the stand about how difficult losing him has been.
"Justice was served but the time does not change how we feel, it's not going to, the pain is still there and the relief is more so that this part is over, this chapter is closed," she said.
Smith’s blood alcohol content sample came back at .258 in two different samples, more than three times the legal limit. The first sample came about four hours after the crash.
It's very important that people not be given the chance to hurt more people," Mara Marzano, an assistant state attorney working on the case said.
The driver had a previous court order, from Palm Beach County, that banned her from drinking alcohol for 12 months, ending in September 2022, more than two months before the deadly crash.