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Fallen sheriff's widow not invited to highway dedication ceremony in his honor

Leaders expected to unveil the Sheriff Chris Daniels Memorial Highway

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – A covered sign stands tall along State Road 19 at the intersection of Lake Cutoff Lane in Tavares Tuesday, ready for the unveiling of the new Sheriff Chris Daniels Memorial Highway scheduled for Wednesday. 

Chris Daniels was killed in an accident during a charity bus race event in 2006. 

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"I think it's a great honor," his widow, Michelle Daniels, said. "He loved his family, he loved his community, he loved being sheriff and he really wanted to do great things for Lake County."

It's why this year, a long-time friend of Daniels', Rep. Larry Metz went before the Florida Legislature to get 3 miles of State Road 19 dedicated in his honor. 

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However, Daniels' widow says she wasn't invited. Michelle Daniels only found out about the dedication from a friend participating in the flag ceremony. 

[RELATED: Grand opening of Orange County park honors fallen deputy]

"It was upsetting," Michelle Daniels said via video chat. "I would have liked to have known this was going to happen so I could have made arrangements to go home and attend to honor his memory."

Instead, she's stuck in Nashville, taking care of a cousin who recently had surgery and is currently in ICU. 

"I want to honor his memory, just like everybody else wants to," Daniels said with tears in her eyes. 

[READ: Vigil honors fallen Brevard County deputy killed in crash]

She wanted to know why she wasn't told about the event. 

News 6 contacted officials from the Lake County Sheriff's Office who said they weren't hosting the event, that the ceremony was being hosted by Metz's office. Lake County Sheriff's Office also sent us email correspondence which shows Metz's staff asking for the family's contact information. 

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Late Tuesday afternoon, Metz said it was his mistake. 

“During the 2018 legislative session I initiated an amendment to the Transportation Facility Designations bill that ultimately became law.  It designates a portion of State Road 19 in Central Lake County in honor of Sheriff Chris Daniels.  After confirmation in late May that the highway signs were ready for installation, my office coordinated the dedication ceremony.  We understand the importance of the family being present for the ceremony and requested contact information.  I was given two telephone numbers for Sheriff Daniels’ adult daughters, Ashley and Lindsey.  I personally called each of them and spoke with one at length.  Based on that conversation, we chose the last week of June for the ceremony.  I requested that Sheriff Daniels’ daughter contact all family members and ensure that they were aware of the event as I could not call each of them personally.  Unfortunately, I now know that only Sheriff Daniels’ first wife and children were notified of the event.  Sheriff Daniels’ wife at the time of his death, Michelle Daniels, was not notified.  I assumed her step daughters would tell her about the ceremony.  In retrospect, I should have ensured that Mrs. Daniels was contacted. I accept responsibility for this oversight and sincerely apologize to Mrs. Daniels.”


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