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Woman accused of knowingly giving drunk friend car keys before deadly I-4 crash

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said if she were a good friend, she wouldn't have given the keys over to a drunk person.
Credit: Hillsbrough County Sheriff's Office
Michelle English

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — Deputies arrested a woman who they say knowingly gave a drunk woman car keys, which led to a deadly crash in November on Interstate 4.

Michelle English, a 45-year-old Brandon woman, faces charges of culpable negligent manslaughter in connection to the crash caused by 47-year-old Lucretia Bruno, according to a Polk County Sheriff's Office news release.

Bruno had been employed as a secretary at Padgett Elementary School.

The two women spent some time bar-hopping together on Nov. 24 in Lakeland, according to the sheriff's office. Bruno eventually left and visited the Wawa location on U.S. Highway 98 N., the agency continued in the release.

The store clerk reported Bruno being very intoxicated and, at one point, tried but couldn't take away her car keys. According to investigators, Bruno eventually dropped the keys in the bathroom and went outside, which deputies said allowed another customer to grab onto them and hand them over to the clerk.

Lakeland police, who responded following a phone call from a store employee, reportedly found Bruno intoxicated. The sheriff's office says the officers couldn't arrest her for DUI without seeing her keys, so they called English, who agreed to pick her up and take her home. Both reportedly got into English's car and drove off.

Police told the store clerk not to hand over Bruno's keys until the morning, the sheriff's office said.

But a few minutes later and with police gone, deputies say English returned. According to law enforcement, Bruno got out and sat in the driver's seat of her car, and English retrieved her keys from the clerk – who was said to have believed she was there to pick up her friend's car.

Instead, the sheriff's office says English gave Bruno the car keys and watched her drive away.

About nine minutes later, a man who was stopped alongside I-4 near the W. 10th Street overpass was hit and killed by Bruno's car, the sheriff's office said. Bruno's alcohol level later was measured over twice the legal limit, it added.

Credit: Polk County Sheriff's Office
Lucretia Bruno

"Both of these women are responsible for this senseless death," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a statement. "If English had been a good friend she would have never let Bruno behind the wheel of a vehicle. 

"Instead, nine minutes and seven miles after handing her intoxicated friend the keys to her car, a man's life was needlessly lost."

English, who was was arrested Jan. 12 in Hillsborough County, will be booked in the Polk County jail, the sheriff's office said. Bruno was charged with two counts of DUI with property damage and DUI manslaughter. She was released on a $26,500 bond following her first appearance hearing.