Drunk Driver Sentenced in April Fool's Day Fatality
Thursday, 01 July 2010 10:51
The Navarre drunk driver who caused the April Fools’ Day 2009 death of Bartholomew Cole was sentenced on Wednesday to 25 years in prison
Ronald Joseph Stewart, 27, Navarre, was fleeing a crash on U.S. Highway 98 and was speeding east on East Bay Boulevard when he struck a car being driven by Cole, 25, of Gulf Breeze. Stewart tried to avoid the other vehicle, which also had been traveling east but had slowed to turn let onto Mossy Oaks Drive, but lost control and struck the driver’s side door of Cole’s car.
Cole was pronounced dead at the scene. His wife, Jennifer Cole, and a passenger, Joel Rodriguez, suffered serious injuries and were taken to Baptist Hospital in Pensacola.
A breath test indicated Stewart had a blood-alcohol level of 0.122, more than 50 percent higher than Florida’s legal maximum for driving, 0.08. Stewart had been cited and fined $151 by Santa Rosa County for having an open container of an alcoholic beverage while driving March 1, 2009. He had been arrested numerous times in Florida for a variety of infractions, most traffic-related but ranging from littering to domestic violence. According to reports published at the time of his arrest for causing Cole’s death, Stewart also has been arrested in Okaloosa, Orange, Osceola, Pinellas, Polk and Volusia counties.