Driver accused of causing crash that killed family of 3 had multiple tickets

Driving record shows high-speed tickets, few points

Two cars destroyed after fiery crash Sunday morning on the Florida Turnpike
Two cars destroyed after fiery crash Sunday morning on the Florida Turnpike (WKMG / JUSTIN WARMOTH)

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – A 24-year-old Orlando man, driving with a suspended license, caused a crash on the Florida Turnpike that killed an infant and two adults, according to Florida Highway Patrol troopers.

The crash happened at about 4:20 a.m. Sunday at mile marker 286, a mile from the Leesburg South exit at State Road 19 and U.S. Route 27.

[RELATED: Family killed in Turnpike crash ID'd]

The victims were identified by the Florida Highway Patrol on Monday as a family from Moultrie, Georgia. Thomas Garza, 23, who was driving, Lillian Luna, 20, and the couple's daughter, Brianna Garza, 1, died in the crash, troopers said.

The FHP said that a Mercedes SUV, driven by James Dameron, ran into the back of the Garza's Nissan Maxima, causing both vehicles to roll over on their sides and catch fire.

Officials said Dameron, who suffered minor injuries, was driving with a license that had been suspended Tuesday.

News 6 obtained Dameron's driving record from the Florida Department of Highway and Safety Vehicles showing 13 tickets since 2010, including 10 of them for speeding, one for texting and driving, and one for a crash with bodily injury.

Dameron's license had been suspended on and off three times, most recently for not paying a fine but never long term for accumulating points on his license.

Records show different hearing officers withheld adjudication for seven of the 10 speeding tickets, even for the most serious ones in Orange County of speeding 90 mph in a 55 mph zone on Feb. 26 and speeding 96 mph in a 55 mph zone on June 15.

Withholding adjudication typically occurs in exchange for a plea of no contest and often points are not assessed on a license.

In Florida, accumulating 12 points in 12 months leads to a 30-day license suspension.

When News 6 asked Orange County Chief Judge Frederick Lauten why hearing officers choose to withhold adjudication rather than finding guilt, a representative told News 6 per the code of judicial conduct, the judge could not discuss the issue because of Dameron's pending cases.

Records show Dameron attended traffic school three times. Florida allows a driver to attend traffic school only five times in a lifetime.

Dameron was not arrested for this weekend's crash but faces charges, FHP said. Alcohol is not believed to have played a role in the wreck, troopers said.

Troopers have not said what Dameron told them happened, only saying "for reasons that remain under investigation."

About the Author: