Sarah Walker found guilty in DUI manslaughter trial

By: Julie Montanaro/WCTV Eyewitness News
October 25, 2019

TALLAHASSE, Fla (WCTV) - A jury deliberated for two hours Friday afternoon before returning a guilty verdict for Sarah Walker.

Walker is now facing up to 15 years in prison for DUI manslaughter.

Walker was accused of crashing into a Florida High track team bus and killing the driver.

The victim's family was in the front row when the judge read that guilty verdict aloud Friday afternoon.

"We the jury find as follows: The defendant is guilty of driving under the influence manslaughter," the judge said.

"I can't even describe it. It's been a long time coming," the victim's daughter Jessica Fowler said. "Unfortunately for me, the verdict doesn't bring back the person I lost that day, but it does bring closure."

William "Rusty" Fowler was killed in April 2014 as he drove the Florida High track team back from a meet in Jacksonville. They were almost home, just a few miles from the school, when Walker's car slammed into the bus and propelled it into a utility pole near the corner of Apalachee Parkway and Conner Boulevard. Fowler died behind the wheel and several students were hurt.

"Mr. Fowler was a great man. We often think about him," said Florida High track coach April McGriff. "Just the whole event is something that's going to stay with us for a long time."

McGriff was on the bus that night. She was in court to hear the verdict and she's anxious to share it with the teammates, many of whom are now in college.

"For all the kids that were on the bus, now I can go back and tell them the outcome of the whole trial. It'll be a woosah for them as well," McGriff said.

"Now that everything is done and closure is here, I'm going to cry happy tears and go visit my dad," Jessica Fowler said as she headed home after the trial.

Fowler is hoping the guilty verdict sends a message to all drivers.

"If you do decide to drink, just don't drive," Jessica Fowler said.

Sarah Walker's attorney had no comment as he left court Friday.

A sentencing date has not yet been set.


By: Julie Montanaro/WCTV Eyewitness News
October 25, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla (WCTV) - A jury has found Sarah Walker guilty of DUI manslaughter in the death of bus driver William “Rusty” Fowler.

The jury deliberated for two hours before reaching its guilty verdict.

The judge ordered Walker be taken into custody pending a sentencing hearing at a later date.

Walker was found guilty of driving drunk and slamming into a bus carrying the Florida High track team in April 2014. The bus driver, William "Rusty" Fowler was killed.

Attorneys made their final arguments to the jury Friday morning. The jury began deliberating at 11:20 a.m and reached its verdict just after 1:30 Friday afternoon.

Copyright 2019 WCTV. All rights reserved.


By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News
October 22, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — Testimony is underway in the DUI manslaughter trial of Sarah Walker.

Walker is accused of driving drunk and crashing into a bus carrying the Florida High track team in April 2014. The bus driver, William Rusty Fowler, was killed in the crash.

The prosecutor told the jury in opening statements that Walker refused a blood test on the scene of the crash, but a sample taken at the jail hours later.

"The results of that blood testing seven hours later was still over the legal limit. Still over the legal limit. 0.099."prosecutor Georgia Cappleman said.

Walker's defense team called those results into question.

"There's a couple of the officers who didn't even smell the odor of alcohol," defense attorney Aaron Wayt told the jury. "Wait for me to come back up here in closing Thursday or Friday and tell you why that blood sample can't be trusted."

The defense attorney told the jury that sometimes accidents are just that. Wayt described a dark, steep roadway near the intersection of Apalachee Parkway and Conner Boulevard and a heavy rain falling at the time of the crash.

One of the track team members described looking out the window and seeing the headlights of a car turning right into the bus.

"It hit us as we were going through the intersection," track team member
Keryelle Farmer said. "I remember headlights of the car turning into us and hitting us."

Farmer said she clenched her teeth and braced for impact. She said the bus then hit a pole so hard it knocked her teeth out of line.

"My teeth ... the whole bottom row shifted," Farmer said.

Fellow track team member Deanne Roberts was on the bus that night too. She was injured in the crash. She described seeing Sarah Walker in the ambulance at the scene of the crash.

"She was stumbling and all I saw was blood red shot, her eyes were like blood red shot," Roberts testified. "My immediate thought was like this person has got to be drunk or high."

The defense attorney asked the two track team members on the bus if Fowler’s dog was creating a disturbance on the bus. Both students said no, that they don’t hear a peep out of the dog until the crash.

“I didn’t even know it was there,” one said.

A paramedic took the stand just before lunch break and testified that she went to the jail hours after the crash to get a blood sample from Walker. It was taken at 9:35 a.m. she testified.

An FDLE analyst also took the stand and testified she tested Walker’s blood sample twice and each time the results were the same. She testified Walker’s blood alcohol level registered 0.099 both times.

Testimony in the case is expected to wrap up by Friday.

Copyright 2019 WCTV. All rights reserved.