Florida Keys

Keys driver guilty of vehicular manslaughter in 2015 crash

April Thomason
April Thomason

A jury today convicted a Keys driver of vehicular manslaughter for the 2015 crash that left a pedestrian dead on the sidewalk.

April Dawn Thomason, 46, of Key West, was also found guilty of two counts of attempted vehicular manslaughter, assault and leaving the scene of a fatal crash. The incident took place on Sept. 16, 2015, when she drove into Stephanie Collins, a dental hygienist from Cudjoe Key who was walking along South Roosevelt Boulevard near mile marker 1 at the time.

The jury deliberated for less than two hours at the Monroe County Courthouse with Judge Luis Garcia presiding.

Sentencing was set for Nov. 5. Thomason faces up to 30 years for the manslaughter conviction alone. Prosecutors said the total maximum on all the charges is approximately 75 years. She hasn’t left jail since her arrest.

Thomason pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, blaming the crash on severe Xanax withdrawal which she began on her own without any medical help. She had no intoxicants in her system, a blood test showed. She also told police she was distracted by talking to God while behind the wheel.

“What occurred was terrible, but it’s not criminal,” said Kevin McCarthy, an assistant public defender, during closing arguments.

Prosecutor Colleen Dunne told jurors in her closing that Thomason chose to stop taking Xanax, which the defense said she had been taking steadily for three years and first started using at age 12.

“She continued to make choices and putting everyone at risk,” Dunne said. “Total disregard for the safety of others. It was willful, it was reckless and it was wanton.”

Each side presented a medical expert to back up the warring claims.

A jury of six received the case at 1:20 p.m. Wednesday. To find that she was legally insane at the time she jumped the curb on South Roosevelt and ran over Collins, jurors would have had to decide that she did not know what she was doing and did not know the consequences or that she knew what she was doing but did not know it was wrong.

The burden to prove Thomason was insane fell on the defense. Prosecutors did have to prove any motive or whether she had intent to kill.

The State Attorney’s Office initially charged Thomason with murder but reduced the charges before trial.

Nearly 50 friends and family of Collins attended the closing arguments Wednesday morning.