Marathon man gets 30 years for fatal DUI crash

A former Marathon man retied in February for killing two people while driving drunk in 2009 was sentenced this week to 30 years in Florida state prison.

Pierson Villalbos, 35, was already convicted on two counts of driving under the influence-manslaughter stemming from a Nov. 28, 2009 crash at U.S. 1 and 23rd Street in Old Town Marathon. 

But the Third District Court of Appeal tossed the conviction, saying Acting Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Ruth Becker shouldn’t have let juror John Ardivson serve on the six person jury. That’s because Ardivson has done handyman work for blood analyst Jody Gyokeres, who processed Villalobos’ blood test following the crash. 

The results didn’t change for Villalbos the second time. According to a press release from State Attorney Catherine Vogel’s office, the six person jury found Villalobos guilt of two counts of DUI manslaughter in less than an hour. 

“We’re pleased that this case has been concluded,” Vogel said. 

Becker, who resided over the retrial at the Monroe County courthouse, also gave Villalbos a lifetime ban from obtaining a driver’s license. He was also ordered to pay restitution, the cost of the prosecution and the cost of the investigation. 

In Villalbos’ first trial, the jury rejected the defense’s claim that someone other than Villalobos was at the wheel.

In the 2014 ruling that the Third District overturned, a three-judge panel wrote that Villalobos had a blood alcohol level of .391 percent. In Florida, one is considered legally drunk at .08. 

The crash occurred in the evening of Nov. 28, 2009. The Florida Highway Patrol at the time said Villalbos’ was traveling northbound on U.S. 1 in his 1999 Ford pickup when he hit a 2009 Toyota driven by Mercedes Diaz. It then struck a car driven by Deborah Mangrum, 34.

Mangrum, a mother of four, died at the scene. Her passenger, Christopher Jennings, died a few days later at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. The couple had only recently moved to Marathon before the crash. 

Two memorial markers remain at the site of the deadly crash.