Softball coach gets four years in prison in fatal wreck

Man who was intoxicated says he’s ‘truly sorry’
BY TOM BRENNAN
The Tampa Tribune

Tampa- The coach had belted down a half-dozen beers and a couple of tequila shots at the holiday dessert social for his girls softball team. Team parents became so concerned they decided to snatch his keys, but Paul Michael Parks had sneaked out behind the wheel of his GMC pickup. About a mile away, Parks rammed head-on into a Jeep driven by Karen Weaver, who was heading home from a yuletide party on Big Bend Road. Parks never noticed the road had gone from four lanes to two and that he was driving into oncoming traffic. Weaver, 47, of Riverview, was killed. Parks, 37, pleaded guilty Thursday to driving under the influence-manslaughter in the wreck, which happened about 11:30 p.m. Dec. 19, 2009. Tests showed his blood alcohol content was 0.218, deputies said. Florida law presumes intoxication at 0.08. Hillsborough Circuit Judge Manuel A. Lopez sentenced Parks to four years in prison followed by 10 years of probation. It was the minimum punishment he could impose. Parks’ guilty plea came without any deal with prosecutors. Although sentencing guidelines called for at least 10 years in prison, Lopez said he was impressed by the parade of witnesses who spoke on Parks’ behalf, including his wife, friends, ministers and former co-workers and boss. “It was out of character for him,” the judge said. “He has shown tremendous remorse. I think he learned a great deal from this.” Parks, who had been free on $25,000 bail since turning himself in to authorities in January 2010, also spoke before being sentenced. “I am truly sorry for what happened,” he said. “I awake every day with a hole in my soul.” Parks denied having a drinking problem, although he said he swore off alcohol after the crash and has attended Alcoholic Anonymous meetings twice weekly. He said the meetings made him feel better because other people were worse off, not having the support he has received. None of Weaver’s family spoke at the sentencing. Prosecutors said Weaver’s brother, Charles Grant, was caring for his ill mother. A victim’s advocate read a letter from Grant, who asked Lopez not to give Parks any breaks. “He snuck out of that party,” Grant wrote, “he knew what he was doing.”
tbrennan@tampatrib.com
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