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Lakeland, Fla. – Nearly two months after a deadly DUI crash, Polk County investigators have arrested a second individual in connection with the tragic incident. On Wednesday, deputies arrested 45-year-old Michelle English of Brandon, charging her with culpable negligent manslaughter for allowing her intoxicated friend to drive her car, ultimately resulting in a fatal collision.

Incident Timeline

According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the events unfolded on November 24 when Michelle English and 47-year-old Lucretia Bruno spent the afternoon together:

  • 4 p.m.: Bruno began drinking at Brewlands Bar and Billiards in Lakeland after meeting English there.
  • 5 p.m.: The pair moved separately to Lucky’s Bar, also in Lakeland, where Bruno continued drinking. Surveillance footage and witness accounts described Bruno as “unstable and intoxicated.”
  • 7:40 p.m.: Bruno drove to a Wawa convenience store on U.S. Highway 98, where security footage captured her struggling to stand and use her credit card. The store clerk, noting her condition, tried unsuccessfully to take her car keys.

Bruno then dropped her keys in the store’s bathroom, which were subsequently handed to the clerk by another customer. Lakeland Police Department officers were called to the scene, but since Bruno did not have her keys and there was no evidence of her controlling the vehicle, she was not arrested for DUI.

Fatal Decision

The officers contacted English, who agreed to pick up Bruno. English arrived, took Bruno from the store, and was observed by police as they left together in English’s vehicle. However, moments later, English returned to the store parking lot with Bruno and retrieved Bruno’s car keys from the clerk.

“The clerk thought English was picking up the keys to retrieve the car, not realizing English was going to give them to Bruno and allow her to drive,” officials stated. Despite being aware of Bruno’s intoxicated state and the officers’ warnings, English handed over the keys.

Deadly Outcome

Just nine minutes and seven miles later, Bruno, driving on Interstate 4, swerved and crashed into a parked pickup truck and car. The crash resulted in the death of a man from Holiday, who had pulled over following a minor collision. The victim’s identity has not been publicly disclosed.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd condemned the actions of both women. “If English had been a good friend, she would have never let Bruno behind the wheel of a vehicle,” Judd remarked. “Instead, nine minutes and seven miles after handing her intoxicated friend the keys to her car, a man’s life was needlessly lost.”

Legal Consequences

English’s arrest marks the first instance in Polk County history of charging someone under these specific circumstances. Sheriff Judd highlighted Bruno’s severe intoxication, noting she registered a 0.207 on the breathalyzer hours after the crash.

Michelle English is currently detained at the Hillsborough County Jail and will be transferred to the Polk County Jail.

This tragic event serves as a stark reminder of the severe consequences of driving under the influence and the responsibilities individuals have to prevent impaired driving.

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Patrick Zarrelli

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