Hit-and-run suspect eluded tougher charges

St. Petersburg, Florida – The mother of one of the women killed in a fiery crash spoke Wednesday about the hurt she is dealing with following the sudden loss of her daughter.

"They was my heart ones and my loved ones," said Cheryl Newsom, daughter of Grace Collier.

Dozens of people gathered at Zion Hill Mortuary on 49th Street South and 17th Avenue South in Gulfport on Wednesday evening.

On June 27, Marquice Anderson was in a Chrysler sedan that struck a Saturn occupied by Collier, Jamesia Santoria and Briana Campbell, police said.

The impact caused the vehicle to burst into flames, which killed Santoria and Campbell, while Collier died at a hospital a day later.

Despite the tragic circumstances, Newsom said that she is not holding anger in her heart for the man police say is responsible for her daughter's death.

"I'm not angry with the guy because God has what he's got to get," Newsom said.

In the deaths of the three women, Anderson has been charged with three counts of vehicular homicide, but the charges could have been much worse.


Anderson girlfriend out on bond

No bond for crash suspect

Accused driver surrenders

On June 24, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that would toughen penalties for anyone who leaves the scene of a crash. The law went into effect Wednesday.

"If you don't follow the new statues and stay there and so the things that are required… if somebody dies as a result of that you're facing 30 years," said Tampa attorney Barry Cohen.

Because the crash happened just days before the bill began a law, Anderson will not face those penalties, but will still face severe punishment if convicted.

Under the new law, anyone who leaves the scene of a crash with injuries also faces a 15-year prison sentence if found guilty.

The new law is named for Aaron Cohen. The 36-year-old father of two was an avid cyclist and was killed in 2012 in a hit-and-run accident near Biscayne Bay in Miami.

"The more overreaching goal is to have it not happen again, or not happen as much and getting people to drive more safely," said Patty Cohen, the 37-year-old widow of Aaron Cohen. "One of the only ways to start changing the attitudes is to start changing the laws."

Aaron and Patty Cohen moved to Miami in 2006. He landed a job as a manager of a car dealership. The lifelong athlete gravitated toward triathlons. He belonged to fitness groups and was riding about three days a week before he was killed.

On Feb. 15, 2012, Cohen was with a riding partner when he was hit. Media reports say the driver, Michele Traverso, waited 18 hours to turn himself in and there was evidence he had been drinking before the crash. He was charged with leaving the scene of an accident, rather than DUI manslaughter and sentenced to less than a year in jail. He could have faced a minimum of four years under a DUI manslaughter charge.



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