|Posted by Tuck on August 12, 2010 at 10:26 AM|
published: Thursday, August 12, 2010
Bikers back families of those killed in Sumter crash
BUSHNELL -- Bikers showed up en masse at the Sumter County Courthouse on Wednesday to support the families of four people who were killed in a crash in March.
The motorcyclists are members of ABATE of Florida, which stands for American Bikers Aimed Towards Education. They came from various areas of the state to show support for the victims.
So many showed up that the line was long to get into the courthouse. But the bikers were there to back the families and try to make sure that the person accused in the fatalities, Paul Sermons, gets the maximum allowable penalty for his alleged crime.
"The thing that got me the most -- he shouldn't have been driving to begin with," said T.J. Painter, assistant state sergeant at arms for ABATE of Florida. Sermons allegedly was driving on a suspended license.
ABATE members hope Sermons gets a sentence that's "not a slap on the face to motorcyclists," said Painter, of Bushnell.
Casey Staley, president of ABATE of Lake County, also attended Wednesday's pre-trial hearing, normally just a formality in criminal cases.
She said she's written a letter to State Attorney Brad King, urging him to exert any and all influence he can in the case. She hasn't heard back from the top prosecutor in the Fifth Judicial Circuit, but she plans to keep writing him.
ABATE members met the families during last month's arraignment.
Sermons, 45, of Bushnell is charged with four counts of negligent homicide-vehicular manslaughter. He is accused of killing four motorcyclists in the crash.
According to a Florida Highway Patrol accident report, the motorcyclists were killed just before 7 p.m. on March 13, a Saturday night, after a truck driven by Sermons tried to pass another vehicle, but wound up striking two motorcycles head on.
The wreck happened on County Road 476 near County Road 629, troopers said.
Sermons was driving a 1991 GMC truck and was passing a 2003 Dodge truck, traveling westbound on CR 476, according to the report. At the same time, two motorcycles were eastbound.
When he realized the motorcycles were closer than he thought, Sermons tried to slow down, according to the FHP report, but he could not slow down enough to avoid a crash.
His truck hit both motorcycles, ejecting both drivers and both passengers.
Sumter County Fire Rescue pronounced three of the motorcyclists dead at the scene. A fourth was taken to an area hospital and died later.
The dead were listed as John Holmes, 52, of Beverly Hills, and his passenger, Patricia Beihayn, 52, of Hernando, according to the report. William Barker, 54, of Stuart, the driver of the other motorcycle, and his passenger, Patrice Poole, 55, of Mount Dora, also were killed in the wreck.
ABATE members plan to attend every hearing in the Sermons case.