Crime

In retrial, jury convicts Villalobos of DUI-manslaughter, vehicular homicide

In his second go-around before a jury, Pierson Villalobos got the same result as the first time: Convicted of killing two people while driving drunk in Marathon.

It took a six-person jury about half an hour Thursday to convict the 35-year-old former Marathon man of two counts each of drunk driving-manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter in the deaths of Debra Mangrum and Christopher Jennings.

The trial started with jury selection Monday morning and the jury came back at 1:15 p.m. Thursday. Villalobos was "emotional" upon hearing the verdict, says Carla Litrenta, who prosecuted the case with Colleen Reed from the Monroe County State Attorney's Office.

Villalobos' next court date, possibly for sentencing, is set for March 29.

He had been convicted of the charges in October 2012 and sentenced to 30 years in state prison on Jan. 31, 2013. But on July 23, 2014, the Third District Court of Appeal vacated the conviction. The judges said Acting Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Ruth Becker erred in allowing one of the six jurors to serve because he had done handyman work for one of the prosecution witnesses.

Becker presided over the retrial and will hand down Villalobos' new sentence just like she did his vacated one.

The crash happened on Nov. 28, 2009, at U.S. 1 and 23rd Street in Old Town Marathon. In both trials, the jury rejected the defense's claim that someone other than Villalobos was at the wheel.

At the time of the crash, the Florida Highway Patrol said Villalobos' 1999 Ford pickup was headed northbound on U.S. 1 and collided with a 2009 Toyota driven by Mercedes Diaz. It then struck a car driven by Mangrum.

Mangrum, a mother of four, died at the scene. Jennings, her passenger, died a few days later at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. Two memorial markers remain at the site of the crash.

Villalobos will remain jailed until his resentencing. Under his first sentence, his scheduled release date was Feb. 4, 2036.

His defense attorneys were Victor Palacios, Jerry Gilhooley and Trish Docherty from the Public Defender's Office. Docherty is running for public defender this year; incumbent Rosemary Enright is retiring.

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