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New charge for island woman in parade crash

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of January 11, 2024)
Photo of Susan Harvey.

The trial of Summerplace resident Susan Harvey for DUI and leaving the scene of a crash in which her car ran down two elderly Indian River Shores residents had been scheduled to begin this week. 

But instead of jury selection Monday, the 74-year-old found herself taking a trip to county jail to be re-arrested for felony DUI manslaughter of one of the victims who never recovered from the crash.

Harvey, a 20-year Indian River County resident, was released on $25,000 bond Monday afternoon.

The charges stem from an evening in December 2021 when Harvey had been drinking at the Ocean Grill – admitting to police she had two Cosmopolitans with dinner – then got behind the wheel of her Lexus, and struck the elderly couple as they were departing the Vero Beach Ocean Drive Christmas parade.

Police say Harvey kept driving after she hit the man and woman – who were walking with folding chairs to the Reef Ocean Resort where their vehicle was parked – seemingly unaware she’d struck anyone. She was stopped by people in the crowd, which included an off-duty Vero Beach police officer attending the parade with his family, and failed police-administered roadside sobriety tests.

The female pedestrian suffered an inoperable fractured pelvis and broken ankle bones, according to the 19th Circuit Medical Examiner’s report from her Feb. 16, 2022, autopsy. Her husband, who also was hospitalized, survived his injuries.

When the woman died just weeks later, the medical examiner noted that she still had light greenish-colored bruising from the crash on her abdomen, plus scarring on her hip, leg and ankle.

The medical examiner concluded that she died “died of Complications of Recent Blunt Force Injuries sustained as the pedestrian struck by a motor vehicle on Dec. 4, 2021.”

“The decedent sustained injuries making her less and less mobile and never fully recovered from the trauma,” the report said. “She developed sequelae directly related to the trauma which caused her death.”

Autopsy findings included pulmonary emboli, deep vein thromboses in both legs, bilateral pneumonia and ulcerated bed sores.

The names of the victims have been redacted from all court documents and police reports, but it’s known that they lived in the Island Club subdivision in Indian River Shores, and after the crash moved into the Indian River Estates assisted living community.

The previous charges against Harvey were a first-degree misdemeanor and a third-degree felony, but the new charge, which Assistant State Attorney Bill Long said encompasses the crash, the driving while intoxicated, the death which resulted, plus leaving the scene, is a first-degree felony.

Long said he would explain the delay in upping the charges once the case is concluded but until then, “I cannot comment about the state’s strategy while the case is ongoing.”

Since Harvey’s defense attorney Bobby Guttridge needs time to conduct discovery related to the new charges, the case was continued until at least March.

Harvey is a retired CPA, and a widow since her husband of 50 years, Roger, died in 2017 of pancreatic cancer. Before her retirement, Susan Harvey worked as a top finance offer for several local nonprofit organizations.