State attorney launches new unit to prosecute backlog of traffic homicides

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The Orange Osceola State Attorney’s office announced Wednesday the creation of a new unit to investigate and prosecute traffic homicide cases.

State Attorney Monique Worrell said the new unit will help with the backlog in traffic homicide cases dating back to 2019 and it could also help prosecute cases sooner.

“This new division will work closely with our law enforcement partners to help bring justice to survivors,” said Worrell.  “I believe that this is very important so that these cases can be handled by someone who is properly qualified.”

The unit will be led by current Assistant State Attorney David Fear who said he will respond to many of the crash scenes.  He will also work alongside traffic investigators in cases throughout Orange and Osceola counties.

“I won’t just have to rely on the video that I see later or rely on the written word to someone else who saw something who is describing it to me, but I can actually take in the information myself,” said Fear.  “Now, instead of having 5 or 10 different prosecutors handling these cases, there’s 1.”

This comes as the Florida Highway Patrol said they’ve investigated 103 fatal crashes in Orange County to date for the year as of Sept. 1, compared to 67 for the same time period last year.

Orlando police Lt. Jerry Goglas said his department has already investigated 34 fatal crashes to date for the year as of Sept. 1, compared to 41 fatal crashes for all 2020.  He says the new traffic unit can help when it comes to prosecution.

“It’s just nice to have someone to reach out to prior to completing some paperwork, “said Goglas. “Just having the state attorney’s office involved as we go. If there’s anything specific that they’re looking for, we can get it early on in the case.”

The Apoka police chief said he agrees.

“I think it’s going to enhance our ability to prosecute these individuals who like to flee the scene of these crimes,” said Chief Mike Mckinley.

Meanwhile, Tara Stiner can’t stop thinking about her mother, 79-year old Gail Kelley. She said Kelley and her dog were killed crossing the street on busy John Young Parkway near Hunter’s Creek Boulevard in June. Troopers say the driver in the case just took off.

“I miss my mom an incredible amount. She was my rock,” said Stiner.  “It’s been difficult because there’s been absolutely no justice for her.”

When asked if the new unit would help family members down the line, Stiner said, “I think it could help for families to have at least one source to go to.”  She went on to say, “I would have to have more information to know how involved they’re going to be, how diligent they’re going to be going after on this for any particular case.”

The Florida Highway Patrol continues investigating her mom’s case and said they’ve only gotten 1 tip in the case.

About the Author:

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.