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Island DUI hit-and-run trial postponed

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of November 16, 2023)
Photo: Susan Harvey in court.

The trial of Summerplace resident Susan Harvey, charged with driving while under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident after her car struck two elderly pedestrians leaving the 2021 Ocean Drive Christmas Parade, has been postponed until Jan. 8.

Harvey’s criminal trial was one of several scheduled for this past Monday, but Circuit Judge Robert Meadows instead proceeded with jury selection for the second-degree murder trial of Jamal Riggins for a drive-by shooting in Gifford – a five-year-old case.

Defense Attorney Bobby Guttridge, when asked by Meadows about continuing the case, noted that Harvey “had been having some health issues” anyway, so he said a January trial would work for the defense.

Harvey, now 74 years old, was arrested at 8:28 p.m. on Dec. 4, 2021, at the 3400 block of Ocean Drive after her Lexus hit two elderly pedestrians as the annual Christmas parade crowd dispersed.

Police reports show Harvey performed poorly on roadside sobriety tests, and said she’d had two  Cosmopolitan cocktails with dinner at the Ocean Grill. She registered a .129 percent and .130 percent blood-alcohol-level on two separate breathalyzer tests – well above Florida’s .08 percent legal limit for impaired driving.

The names of the two pedestrians struck at the parade are protected according to Marsy’s Law, which allows the redaction of victim information from public court records, but at least one person showed up Monday to support the victims, one of whom is now deceased.

An elderly neighbor using a rolling walker made his way into Judge Meadows’ third-floor courtroom with some assistance, arriving just after the trial was rescheduled, and noting the new Jan. 8 trial date.

Though he did not want to be named, the neighbor said he now lives near the surviving victim at the Indian River Estates community, where the two victims moved into assisted living after being discharged from the hospital following the crash. The female victim, he said, was placed in Indian River Estates’ Willowbrooke Court skilled nursing facility and died only a short time afterward, he said. The man, he said, is now in his late 80s.