Driver enters plea in crash that killed Orange County Deputy Norm Lewis

Lewis died while taking part in manhunt for Markeith Loyd

ORLANDO, Fla. – The motorist accused of causing a deadly collision that killed an Orange County deputy will lose his driver's license for six months and pay a $1,000 fine under a plea entered Monday.

Billie Jarrard, 80, pleaded no contest to failing to yield while making a left hand turn. Jarrard's attorney told the judge the plea was in his client's best interest and not an admission of wrongdoing.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Jarrard was driving along Pine Hills Road on Jan. 9, 2017 when he abruptly turned into the path of an oncoming Orange County Sheriff's Office motorcycle.

Deputy Norm Lewis was killed when his motorcycle struck the side of Jarrard's van, investigators said.

At the time of the crash, Lewis, 35, had been taking part in the manhunt for Markeith Loyd, who is accused of gunning down Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton just hours before the traffic collision.

Court records indicated Jarrard was planning to challenge his traffic citations in court but shortly before a hearing was scheduled to begin Monday, the driver's attorney announced that his client would be withdrawing his original plea of not guilty.

Besides the citation for failure to yield, troopers originally cited Jarrard for failing to wear corrective lenses that were required when he was driving. That citation was later dismissed after investigators learned Jarrard had eye surgery months before the crash that reportedly improved his vision.

Jarrard did not attend the brief court hearing.

"The gentleman didn't even have the courtesy to appear, didn't even say he was sorry for the life he took," Lewis's mother, Norma Lewis, said. "The fact that he didn't have the audacity to show up and face Norm's mom, that's a coward."

Under the plea, Jarrard received the maximum punishment allowed under state law.

Lewis' mother said she plans to encourage state lawmakers to increase the penalties for causing a traffic death.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades. Mike joined News 6 just as Florida officials began counting hanging chads in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election. Since then, he has covered some of the biggest news events in Central Florida.