By Kevin Deutsch
A Margate woman who drunkenly killed a police detective by causing a fiery Coral Springs car crash was sentenced Monday to more than 16 years in prison, authorities said.
Joselyn Lopez, 34, changed her plea to no contest to the most serious charges in the case in August, leading a judge to adjudicate her guilty and sentence her to 16.4 years in state prison, followed by ten years of probation once she is released, according to prosecutors.
Lopez was guilty of vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter, reckless driving causing serious bodily injury, and DUI causing serious bodily injury, court records show.
According to Coral Springs Police, Lopez had finished a night of drinking with friends on Aug. 20, 2016, before driving her 2010 hot pink Dodge Challenger into a 1995 Jeep Wrangler on N. State Road 7 near Wiles Road around 2:30 a.m. while intoxicated, court records show.
The Challenger, traveling 81 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour speed zone, punctured the Jeep’s fuel tank and caused a fire and explosion that burned up the Jeep and killed its driver, 30-year-old Fort Lauderdale police Det. Christopher Sheehan.
Sheehan’s passenger and close friend, Jacob Snowhite, a Fort Lauderdale firefighter and paramedic, tried desperately to pull the detective from the burning car but could not because the door was jammed, court records show.
Snowhite suffered a traumatic brain injury, a spine injury, serious burns, and other injuries, the records show.
Lopez, who was not injured, recorded a blood alcohol level of .08 percent two and a half hours after the crash, which is more than the legal limit.
She claimed to have drunk a single Long Island iced tea before getting behind the wheel, but a toxicology expert testified she would have had to have consumed five to six additional drinks to reach her level of drunkenness, records show.
Sheehan had been looking forward to wedding his fiancé, Amanda Alois, who he had known since elementary school, prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
On Sheehan’s last evening alive, prosecutors wrote that he and Alois texted and FaceTimed each other numerous times.
“The last text Amanda sent her fiancé Christopher was asking him to text her when he got home to be sure he made it home safely,” prosecutors wrote. “She never received that text.”
Their wedding date was two months away when the crash happened.
Sheehan was a seven-year veteran of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and a member of the department’s S.W.A.T. team. He had graduated from Cardinal Gibbons High School and the University of North Florida.
Before the fatal crash, Lopez’s driving history included more than a dozen traffic citations for illegal acts ranging from speeding to following too closely, plus a criminal charge of battery on a paramedic, according to prosecutors.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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