A Lee Circuit decide on Friday sentenced a North Naples man accused of stopping on Interstate seventy five and inflicting a deadly 2016 crash to half a decade behind bars.
Lee Circuit Decide Ramiro Manalich sentenced Zachary Kureth, 25, to sixty three months — or simply over 5 years — in state jail for his position in a crash that killed Robert Weinland, seventy nine, of Sarasota, and significantly injured his spouse, Gisela Weinland, seventy six.
“This can be a case that has generated numerous emotion, loads of ache,” Manalich informed the 2 households within the Fort Myers courtroom.
“It’s additionally generated a number of hopeful feedback, lots of therapeutic feedback from each side. … The occasions of this case have been very exhausting on everybody involved with it.”
Kureth confronted felony costs of vehicular murder and reckless driving inflicting critical bodily damage, and a misdemeanor cost of reckless driving inflicting injury to individual or property. He pleaded no contest.
Authorities stated Kureth was driving south on I-75 between the Daniels Parkway and Alico Road exits April 19, 2016, when he hit the brakes intentionally “in an act of road rage.” That caused the Weinlands behind him to have to slow to a stop, authorities said. Seconds later, a tractor-trailer plowed into the back of the Weinlands’ car.
Gisela Weinland and Robert Weinland (Photo: Courtesy of the Weinland family)
Kureth, who had been placed on probation 11 days before the fatal crash because of a DUI conviction, initially told troopers that a car slowing down in front of him had triggered the crash, prosecutors said.
But video from a nearby warehouse showed that wasn’t the case, and Kureth, during a full-day sentencing hearing Tuesday, admitted he had been untruthful at first.
“To Mr. Kureth’s credit, he did admit that that had occurred,” Manalich said, “and that that was due to panic over his situation.”
Kureth had a “somewhat troubling driving history,” including citations alleging unlawful speeding, failure to obey a traffic signal and failure to obey a red light, Manalich said.
“His license was issued in 2007,” he said. “Beginning in 2011, there are a series of violations.”
Kureth’s scoresheet — a point system that provides sentencing guidelines in Florida — added up to 12 years in prison, and prosecutors asked for no fewer than 10 years.
However, Manalich said some of the testimony he heard Tuesday convinced him a lesser sentence was appropriate.
For one, Manalich said, he was impressed by the defense’s crash reconstruction expert for providing “a very thorough” and “competent analysis of the events.” That defense expert testified Tuesday his analysis showed that had the driver of the tractor-trailer been more attentive, the crash could have been avoided.
Although “this scenario occurred because of Mr. Kureth’s reckless driving,” Manalich said “that truck did nothing to avoid this collision.”
“That truck had 11 seconds from the time of braking to avoid this…