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Plea deal, 12-year prison sentence resolve Beverly Hills woman’s DUI that killed daughter, 3

Before a judge handed down what she called her “future,” Shelby Gabrielle Collazo wanted the court to know she will never escape the guilt of killing her young daughter in a DUI crash.

“I’m not trying to escape punishment for this tragedy,” she told Citrus County Circuit Judge Richard Howard on Monday, May 2. “I’m just trying to convey to you all here that I will forever pay for this everyday I wake up without my daughter.”

Citrus County Sheriff's Office 

Collazo

Collazo and prosecutors with the State Attorney’s Office agreed for the Beverly Hills 27-year-old to serve 12 years in prison for driving impaired early Oct. 11, 2020, and causing a single-vehicle crash in Citrus Hills, killing her 3-year-old daughter and injuring four others, including three teenagers.

Collazo will also be on drug-offender probation for four years following her imprisonment, which includes a minimum-mandatory term of four years behind bars.

In exchange for her sentence, Collazo pleaded no contest to charges of DUI manslaughter with a child present, DUI involving serious injuries with a child present, and three counts of DUI involving personal injury with a child present.

“I will forever pay for this,” she told Howard from the courtroom lectern, standing by her lawyers, Kali Stauss and Christopher Schisani. “My family will forever pay as well.”

Collazo also pleaded no contest to resolve her second felony case connected to an April 2 disturbance she caused while out on bond at a Crystal River gas station that led to her trying to hide her identity and drugs from authorities.

As punishment for charges of disorderly conduct, providing a false name to law enforcement, resisting without violence, evidence tampering, and possessing marijuana, Collazo will serve 60 months of drug-offender probation after she completes the probationary term for her DUI offense.

After ratifying her plea Monday, Howard adjudicated Collazo guilty on each of her charges, and permanently revoked her driver’s license.

Collazo is still eligible to apply for a hardship license after five years, in accordance with Florida law, Howard noted.

“I’m not going to seek to prevent that,” the judge said. “If that’s what the law says, that’s what it is.”

Assistant State Attorney Lori Ellingsworth told Howard that Collazo, another adult, three teens and Collazo’s daughter got into a five-passenger Hyundai Santa Fe after Collazo drank alcohol at a party.

Collazo’s daughter was buckled onto the lap of one of the teens sitting in the backseat, Ellingsworth said.

While northbound on North Jill Avenue, near the intersection with West Cave Court, the SUV left the roadway and struck a tree at around 1:55 a.m.

Ellingsworth said the crash “nearly decapitated” Collazo’s daughter, who was pronounced dead at the crash scene.

“I had a family once,” Collazo told Howard, “a daughter who made everything right with her innocent soul, a son who was becoming a man well before his time – a son who not only lost his sister but now his mother, and potentially his father, too.”

According to court filings, Collazo’s other passengers sustained numerous bone fractures, bruising, and injuries to internal organs. One passenger suffered from a broken spine and tears to their bowels and diaphragm. Along with bruising, Collazo had a small cut to her right leg.

Collazo’s blood alcohol levels at the time of the crash were 0.12 percent and 0.11 percent, Ellingsworth told Howard, higher than Florida’s lawful limit of 0.08%.

Collazo was due to stand trial next week.

“I can’t ever replace what has been taken, lost and injured, but I can be a better mother to my son, and, with your mercy, help others heal,” she told Howard on Monday, “because, sadly, I won’t be the last to experience such a loss, but I can be an advocate to those who are going through the same.”

Homosassa 42-year-old Aaron Matthew Smith pleaded no contest Monday to charges of trafficking in fentanyl and possessing less than 28 grams of cocaine, in exchange for a negotiated prison sentence of 51.15 months as a habitual felony offender.

Citrus County Sheriff's Office 

Smith

Three years of Smith’s prison sentence will be a minimum-mandatory term.

Sheriff’s office deputies arrested Smith May 18 after they found 9.8 grams of fentanyl and 1.1 grams of cocaine in plastic baggies within his vehicle during a traffic stop outside of Crystal River.

Deputies pulled Smith over for not coming to a full stop at an intersection while driving with illegally tinted windows.

In exchange for three years in prison, Homosassa 51-year-old Richard Dwight Harkleroad pleaded no contest Monday to his second-degree-felony charges of selling methamphetamine and possessing meth with intent sell – offenses that were split into two separate criminal cases.

Citrus County Sheriff's Office 

Harkleroad

Harkleroad was arrested in December on an original charge of trafficking in meth for selling around 14 grams of the drug the month prior to a confidential informant for $250.

Prosecutors reduced Harkleroad’s charge to selling in meth after the amount Harkleroad dealt weighed in at 13.98 grams, under the 14-gram threshold to charge him with trafficking.

Harkleroad was arrested a second time in April for possessing meth with intent to sell.

“I didn’t posses anything,” he told Howard on Monday, “I was never caught with anything.”


Local
Nonprofit Spotlight: Citrus Pregnancy Center

Editor’s note: Every community depends on the resources and support that nonprofit agencies provide people, whether physical, material or emotional.

The Chronicle’s ongoing series, Nonprofit Spotlight, profiles the nonprofit agencies in Citrus County that exist to help make life better for us all.

To have your nonprofit organization considered for a spotlight, here’s the link to an online form you can fill out: https://www. chronicleonline.com/site/forms/nonprofit_spotlight.

In 1998, a handful of local pastors got together and talked about starting a crisis pregnancy center.

They knew that only God could do it, and they were willing to step out on faith that it would happen.

The ministry to women and families dealing with an unplanned pregnancy opened in 1999 as Life Choice Care Center. Today it’s called Citrus Pregnancy Center with two locations, Inverness and Crystal River.

In 2021, the center served 488 clients, women and men, who received their services, with a total of 1,337 appointments, their highest number of appointments to date.

What does Citrus Pregnancy Center do? What is the mission/purpose as an agency?

Citrus Pregnancy Center exists to help women and their partners who are facing unplanned pregnancies to choose life for their babies and then equipping the parents-to-be with the things they need to give their baby and themselves a good foundation.

What services do you offer?

All services offered by Citrus Pregnancy Center are free to the clients and include: lab-quality pregnancy tests, sonograms, evidence-based information about abortion so a woman considering abortion can make an educated and informed decision, parenting training, fatherhood classes, adoption education, and for those who have had abortions and are struggling with the emotional after-effects, even years later, the center offers post-abortion counseling.

The center also has a Baby Boutique that’s filled with baby clothes, diapers, baby wipes, vitamins, formula, car seats, strollers – everything a newborn needs, thanks primarily to a grant from the Citrus County Community Charitable Foundation and sometimes donations from community groups and churches that have baby showers to keep the boutique stocked with brand new items.

Clients who enroll and complete at least 10 lessons of parenting classes earn points, which they can use to “shop” in the boutique for everything they need, in some cases, even a crib.

“Instead of giving things away, we want them to get the satisfaction of, ‘I earned this,’ and, ‘I can do this,’” said Barb Gosa, Citrus Pregnancy Center executive director.

She said many of their clients struggle financially, and most recently the pandemic has taken a toll on young families.

“Ten points might not sound like much, but that will ‘buy’ five brand-new baby outfits,” Gosa told the Chronicle in 2021.

What is the annual budget and how is it funded?

The budget for 2022 is about $300,000. The center receives no government funding of any kind and is supported by donations from individuals and churches.

They also have three main fundraisers: a banquet in the fall, a walk in the spring and “baby bottle” campaigns that local churches do throughout the year where empty baby bottles are given out to be returned filled with coins, cash or checks.

How many volunteers does Citrus Pregnancy Center have? Are more needed, and if so, how can people volunteer?

Currently the center has about 20 volunteers, ranging from answering the phone to counseling with clients. Gosa said they always need volunteers and will provide training. Their most pressing need is for registered nurses to give sonograms.

What keeps you motivated?

“When women come in, they’re often frightened and unsure; many don’t know what they’re going to do,” Gosa said. “But then when they leave and are almost physically transformed with a smile on their face and they’re calmer and ready to review all the information they’ve received, that’s what motivates us.”

What difference do you want to make in Citrus County?

“We would love to see Citrus County know that when women get pregnant, that they have the support and resources they need to continue their pregnancy,” Gosa said. “When they’re in our parenting program and they come into the baby boutique to shop with the points they’ve earned, we make sure they know that everything in that room has been donated by people they’ll never meet who care about what they’re going through and want them to have nice things.

“The looks on their faces are amazing.” she said.

How can the community help you help others?

Gosa said the biggest help would be to tell others the center exists to offer help and resources, adding that most of their clients find them by word of mouth or an internet search and that after more than 20 years, people still don’t know about the center.

Upcoming events:

Citrus Pregnancy Center’ “Walk in Love” fundraising walk is set for Saturday, May 14 beginning at the Depot pavilion in Inverness.

Check-in time is 8 a.m. and the walk starts at 9.

Register online at www.cpcwalk.com.

INFO:

Citrus Pregnancy Center is at 3185 E. Thomas St., Inverness. Phone: 352-341-5176.

The Crystal River center is at 726 NE U.S. 19, Crystal River. Phone: 352-228-4909.

Email: frontdesk@citrus pregnancy.org

Website: CitrusPregnancy.org.

Facebook: www.facebook. com/CitrusPregnancy Center


Local
Bravera Health offers support group to those with Parkinson's

Patti Gale was not always the way she is now: confined to a wheelchair, her hands shaking, and panicked when her husband is out of sight.

fredhiers / Fred Hiers Chronicle Reporter 

Maurer

Bill Maurer was a science professor at College of Central Florida. He was a long-distance runner and traveled. He was not always confined to his home. He did not always need his wife to button his shirt or tie his shoes.

Stewart Grumbling did not always need a cane to walk. There was no need for the former print shop owner in Inverness to worry how to slow his Parkinson’s Disease. He was healthy and active. He enjoyed running and waterskiing.

fredhiers / Fred Hiers Chronicle Reporter 

Grumbling

There are one million Americans who suffer from Parkinson’s, for which there is no cure, only drugs to try and slow its relentless progression. There will be 1.2 million by 2030.

People are typically diagnosed when they are in their 60s.

Many Parkinson’s patients complain they feel left on their own emotionally to deal with the disease after being diagnosed.

In Citrus County they need not go through it by themselves.

mattbeck / Matthew Beck / Chronicle photo editor 

Instructor Jo-Anne Mahar, center, motivates Lynn Farley as she pedals hard during a Pedaling for Parkinson’s spin class. At left, Joseph Beaulieu concentrates on keeping his speed up.

Bravera Health Seven Rivers Hospital in Crystal River is offering its monthly Parkinson’s Disease support group. Suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, the hospital has again begun the meetings where hospital staff host speakers and offer a place Parkinson’s patients can talk with one another, share how they handle the disease, and discuss new treatments.

Gale, 67, and a former office manager for her husband’s auto repair shop, Maurer, 82, and a former teacher, and Grumbling, 63, and a former printer and construction worker, have the Bravera support group in common.

“Maybe I can contribute something during the years I have left,” Maurer said. “Maybe I can learn something from (the support group).”

mattbeck / Matthew Beck / Chronicle photo editor 

Stewart Grumbling, right, keeps up his pace during the Pedaling for Parkinson’s spin class.

Grumbling attended the meetings and also participates in a free stationary cycling class at the YMCA in Lecanto offered to those who have Parkinson’s.

Grumbling exercises and eats healthy, but said that much of how you cope with the disease comes down to a person’s mental approach and attitude.

Sometimes he doesn’t want to get out of bed because the Parkinson’s makes it too difficult.

“But I say get up. Keep going. Get a sponsor,” Grumbling advised. “You have to have a goal.”

People with Parkinson’s need some emotional support, he said, which is where a support group is important.

In the Bravera meetings he is reminded others have Parkinson’s. There he can share his experiences with the disease, being misdiagnosed for years, and later accepting the disease.

While doctors understand much about Parkinson’s, most haven’t experienced it firsthand.

Patti Gale and her husband, Gary, remember the doctor’s visit when they learned of Gale’s diagnosis.

mattbeck / Matthew Beck/Chronicle photo editor 

Instructor Jo-Anne Mahar uses a photograph of herself to light-heartedly motivate one of the participants in the Y’s Pedaling for Parkinson’s spin class. She placed the picture to the front of a stationary bikes as a reminder to help the individual when she was working with others in the class.

The doctor prescribed medication and said “call me if you need me,” the couple recall. It was a low moment in their lives.

Many with Parkinson’s complain they feel abandoned and their future uncertain after their diagnosis, other than an occasional doctor’s visit to monitor the disease.

“I never had experience with Parkinson’s ... before this,” Maurer said. “It was pretty scary. It’s terminal and you don’t know how fast it’s going to progress.”

Parkinson’s disease is a condition where a part of your brain deteriorates. The disease is best known for how it affects muscle control, balance and movement.

When you have Parkinson’s Disease, your brain doesn’t produce enough dopamine, an important neurotransmitter.

So, when your brain sends signals that tell your muscles to move, it fine-tunes your movements using cells that require dopamine. But without the chemical, your movements stall.

As Parkinson’s disease progresses, the symptoms get worse. Tremors become common and more severe. Later stages of the disease often cause dementia-like symptoms.

Medication helps, but it’s only a temporary fix.

That’s where the support group comes in.

When nurse Victoria Lycans took over the group, participation had dwindled. Bravera hospital heads tasked her with making the service relevant again.

“I kept going because (participants) stole my heart,” she said. “It’s so hard to see what they’re going through. Knowing I can give them this little bit of happiness ... is important.”

The group meets at the hospital the third Thursday of every month, 3-4 p.m. Lycans can be contacted at 352-795-0534.

The group has guest speakers, and participates in activities like chair yoga, dancing, and talking with one another about the disease.

“That’s the one thing that keeps them coming, more than what they learn at their doctor’s office,” she said.

“Their most common fear is of the unknown. What’s going to happen to them,” she said.

“When you can talk with someone who is going through the same things you are ... that helps,” Lycans said.

When the meetings were canceled because of the pandemic, many still wanted to come, despite the risks.

Pedaling for Parkinson’s instructor Kelcey Reina follows a program that exercisers follow as she guides them through the class. Participants pedal on stationary bikes in a program specifically designed for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

One of the hardest things about Parkinson’s for Maurer is “I feel like I keep losing things: going camping, boating, lawn work ... visiting my children.”

The disease chips away at your life, he said. And the people best to understand that are people who are also going through it.

He tries to keep his mind functioning, so he reads about science, works on puzzles and crosswords.

He said the support group helps prepare him for what symptoms might come next.

Since Nov. 2021, Patti Gale has not slept in her bed. She sleeps sitting in her wheelchair, usually with her head on a tabletop.

In 2010, Gale had breast cancer and mastectomies.

Five years later she and her husband Gary were eating breakfast at a Denny’s restaurant.

“I asked (Gary) do you see my head jerking,” Gale said.

Gary couldn’t see but his wife insisted she felt it move.

Within a few months she had problems with her balance. She went to a neurologist and after a couple tests he gave her the bad news.

By 2018 Gale was experiencing severe pain and anxiety and ended up in multiple ERs trying to get relief. On Nov. 5, 2021, during one of those visits, she sat down in a wheelchair and didn’t get out.

She takes levodopa and carbidopa, the most common drugs prescribed for the disease.

She tucks her shaking hands close to her chest to stop their shaking. She seldom wants to go out in public because she is afraid people will stare or laugh.

“We have an existence now ... not a life,” said her husband. “I can’t do anything. I can’t go anywhere.”

She said she asks God what she did wrong to deserve this.

Grumbling had symptoms of Parkinson’s years earlier but they were misdiagnosed. Even when he was diagnosed correctly, he ignored the symptoms until he ended up in a hospital.

“I should have gotten help long before,” he conceded. “But I didn’t want to face it.”

He still considers himself blessed.

“I’ve lived a great life. I’ve met wonderful people. I’ve laughed often,” he said. “What God has me doing now is helping others.”

Gale, Maurer, and Grumbling don’t want others with Parkinson’s to go through it alone.

They have hope there will be new treatments.

“We encourage each other,” Grumbling said. “Get help right away ... and know you’re not the only one that has Parkinson’s. Get help from others.”


News_notes
Food giveaway May 4 and 18 at fairgrounds

The next two Let’s Feed Citrus events will be Wednesday, May 4 and 18. Beginning at 9 a.m. the public can receive food at the Citrus County fairgrounds at 3600 S. Florida Ave, Inverness — drive-thru only.


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