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Dec 25, 2023

Plant City man arrested for DUI Manslaughter in Lakeland on Christmas Eve

Media Contact: Carrie Horstman, Administrator

A 40-year-old Lakeland woman who was riding down West Pipkin Road in Lakeland on a motorized wheelchair was killed by a Plant City man who was then arrested and charged with DUI Manslaughter on December 24, 2023.

Howard BennettAround 6:00 p.m. that evening, Howard Bennett, DOB 1/16/1956, of Old Mulberry Road in Plant City, was heading east down West Pipkin Road approaching the intersection with Fairfield Drive in Lakeland in his 2019 silver Mazda CX5, when he struck Leslie Stone who was on her powered wheelchair mobility device heading east on the roadway.

The deputies who arrived observed Bennett stumbling while walking and using their patrol vehicle for support, and that he had bloodshot and watery eyes and spoke with slurred speech. They also detected an odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from Bennett's breath. After a field sobriety test, Bennett was taken into custody.

Bennett provided two breath samples; one measured .159 G/210 L, and the other .158G/210 L. Both samples were nearly twice the legal threshold of 0.08 G/210L.

Bennett was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with DUI Manslaughter (F2), DUI .15 or higher with property damage (M1), and DUI with property damage (M1).

Our prayers are with Ms. Stone's family. To lose a loved one this way is awfully tragic, but especially during the holiday season. We hope and pray our citizens will make better choices than this suspect did - please celebrate the holidays responsibly.” – Grady Judd, Sheriff