Tampa Man Receives 25 Years for Selmon Expressway DUI Crash

On Wednesday, a Tampa man called Stephen Paleveda, 32, was handed a 25-year prison sentence after being convicted for DUI manslaughter related to a wrong-way crash on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway. Despite the defense arguing that Paleveda, who drove a Ford-350 pickup truck during the incident causing the death of Bamnet Narongchai, 68, was not the driver, the jury in February disagreed.

During his sentencing, Paleveda maintained a low profile, wearing an orange jail uniform and square black glasses. His Public Defender Rocky Brancato highlighted his remorse over the incident, his history of substance abuse, and a life marked by death and maltreatment. Brancato asked the judge to consider Paleveda’s depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in the judgment.

However, the prosecution claimed that Paleveda made one bad decision after another, starting from when he got behind the wheel. Following the crash, instead of offering help, Paleveda fled the scene.

After five years since the victim’s death, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Barbara Twine Thomas believed it was time for the family to find closure. She noted that it was the first time she had seen any sign of remorse from Paleveda. She criticized him for leaving the scene without attempting to rescue the victim or directing the police to him.

The accident took place just past midnight on October 21, 2018. Paleveda, speeding in a Ford F-350 pickup truck without headlights, drove up a Selmon Expressway exit ramp in Hyde Park, going the wrong way. He collided head-on with another smaller truck, instantly killing Narongchai. Both trucks were set ablaze. Paleveda attempted to run away after the crash but was later apprehended. He was described as drunk and aggressive, and was found to have a blood alcohol level more than triple the legal limit.

The defense argued that Paleveda was the passenger, not driver, of the F-350 and that his girlfriend, who was supposed to be the designated driver that evening, crashed the truck and fled. However, evidence showed no proof of girlfriend involvement in the accident.

Paleveda’s case took 5 years to conclude, including a four-day trial in February where experts offered different opinions on Paleveda’s injuries and debates ensued over the crash dynamics and seat belt mechanics. Beyond the prison term, Paleveda is required to undergo counseling, attend Alcoholics Anonymous and complete a five-year probation period.

The victim’s family said they were satisfied with the judge’s ruling, although they still held doubts about Paleveda’s remorse. Narongchai, originally from Thailand, had lived in the U.S. for many years. He had recently become a grandfather and is remembered as a happy person who gave much of his time to volunteer work.

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