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Autopsy Shows Youth Had Alcohol in System

The Fran Haasch Law Group

SARASOTA COUNTY – An autopsy report shows that the driver of an SUV that crashed in
March, killing him and three other teenagers, had alcohol and marijuana in his system at the time of the wreck. Yet experts say the results do not indicate that Sean Leonard, 19, was legally impaired. About 5:30 a.m. on March 13, Leonard lost control of a Chevrolet TrailBlazer while driving eastbound on Wilkinson Road. The Florida Highway Patrol, which is still investigating the accident, determined that the SUV was traveling at 99 mph when Leonard failed to negotiate a curve.

The vehicle veered into an oncoming lane, jumped a curb and rolled into a concrete block wall at Marcott Circle. Also killed were Leonard’s three passengers: Andrew Monroe, 19; Kelly Janis, 15; and Leonard’s sister, Jessica Leonard, 14.

Dr. Russell Vega, the medical examiner, and Dr. Wilson A. Broussard, who conducted the autopsies, were unavailable for comment Monday. Yet two independent pathologists agreed that the findings do not show that Leonard – whose alcohol level was .01 and .03 in separate tests – was legally intoxicated. Dr. Thomas W. Young, a former medical examiner in Missouri who is a forensic consultant in court cases, described Leonard’s alcohol level as “very low” if it was at .01. In Florida, a driver with a blood-alcohol level of .08 is considered intoxicated.

In Florida, where the legal drinking age is 21, state law is more strict for underage drivers. According to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, any driver under 21 whose alcohol level is .02 or above faces a license suspension for six months. Separate tests show ”byproducts of smoking marijuana” in Leonard’s blood, Young said. But the pathologist regarded the amounts of THC, the hallucinogenic substance in marijuana, to be “not particularly meaningful” and inconclusive as to whether Leonard was high during the wreck. Marijuana byproducts can stay in the body long after the drug was used, he said. Dr. Stephen Godfrey, also a pathologist and court expert in Missouri, said Leonard’s THC levels show “some cannabis use in the last 24 to 48 hours.” Passenger Andrew Monroe,19, had a blood-alcohol level of .13; his liver also tested positive for traces of cannabis, the medical examiner’s report stated. Rear-seat passenger Kelly Janis had a blood alcohol level of .05, but no traces of cannabis.

No alcohol or cannabis was found in tests of the other rear-seat passenger, Jessica Leonard. The accident caused a wave of mourning across the region among young people and adults who knew the four teenagers. The two girls both attended Sarasota Military Academy. Leonard and Monroe graduated from Riverview High School in 2010. Monroe’s family declined to comment Monday, noting that the FHP had previously said alcohol was not considered a factor in the crash. Calls to the Leonard and Janis homes were not returned.


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