The Office of State Attorney Glenn Hess announces that on January 23, 2020, John Roland Goedtke entered an open plea to the court to three counts of DUI Manslaughter, one count of Leaving the Scene of a Crash Involving Death, and one count of Driving While License Suspended or Revoked.
As the factual basis for the plea, the Defendant admitted to the following. As dusk fell on October 24, 2018, four lineman were working to restore electricity after Hurricane Michael, along the power line that runs on the east side of State Road 77, one mile north of Wausau in Washington County, Florida, just north of the Talton Road intersection. Ryan Barrett was a 22 year old employee of Lee Electric Construction. His supervisor, George Cesil, was 52. James “Bo” Ussery was 61. He was a lineman with West Florida Electric Cooperative. They were standing beneath the power lines 20 feet from the edge of the roadway. Robert Morgan was working above them in a bucket truck.
The Defendant was driving a pickup truck towing a large, enclosed U-Haul trailer northbound on SR 77 at a high rate of speed. Just south of Talton Road, the Defendant ran upon a string of 5 or 6 cars traveling north. He swerved into the southbound lane. Two Musgrove powerline construction trucks were in that lane adjacent to the line of cars the Defendant was attempting to pass. The first truck drove into the ditch. The Defendant passed between the first truck and the line of cars. The second Musgrove truck steered onto the shoulder as the Defendant passed. The Defendant then swerved back into the northbound lane causing the trailer to fishtail. At that point, the Defendant lost all control of his rig. It careened through the ditch on the east side of SR 77. It then launched up over Talton Road. When it landed, it skidded into the three linemen sending two flying and dragging the third under the Defendant’s truck. The Defendant jumped from the truck running north along the highway. He was later arrested at Blue Pond Park, 6 miles away. Denying that he was the driver of the truck, the Defendant told officers – correctly – that his driver’s license was revoked.
Mr. Cesil died at the scene. Ryan Barrett died shortly thereafter while a life flight helicopter was enroute. Bo Ussery died at the hospital. A legal blood draw and lab analysis showed that at the time of the manslaughter the Defendant had 156 ng/mL of methamphetamine and 51 ng/mL of amphetamine in his blood – a quantity rendering the Defendant impaired.
The case was investigated by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Chipley Police Department, the Florida Highway Patrol, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It was prosecuted by State Attorney Glenn Hess and Assistant State Attorney Mark E. Graham. Sentencing is set for Monday, January 27, 2020 at 9 a.m. at the Washington County Courthouse before the Honorable Judge Timothy Register. The Defendant faces a minimum of approximately 34 years in prison and a maximum of life.