TAVARES – A Umatilla man who blamed the bright morning sun for a fatal crash that killed a bicyclist was charged with DUI/manslaughter after a toxicology report put his blood-alcohol at double the level allowed for motorists.
Robert Marlon Walker, 56, an unemployed carpenter, was arrested following a four-month probe.
According to a traffic-homicide report filed by the Florida Highway Patrol, Walker admitted that he’d had five or six beers the night before, but believed he was not impaired Sept. 25 when his Toyota Prius hit the bicycle.
The crash occurred about 8 a.m.
The impact propelled the bicyclist, Laura Ann Ugolini, 49, of South Central Avenue onto the hood of Walker’s vehicle which was traveling east on County Road 450 about 1.5 miles west of Umatilla city limits.
She also was riding east when hit from behind.
According to the investigative report, Walker said he held up his hand to block out the morning sun and heard a sudden “boom,” then looked into his mirror to see the bicycle and a woman lying in the two-lane road.
Ugolini died a short time later at Florida Hospital Waterman in Tavares.
Investigators said the bicyclist was not wearing a helmet while riding her bicycle, a newer model Schwinn that was equipped with a basket. The trooper’s report does not indicate where she was headed or where she had been.
The accident occurred about three miles from her home.
Stacey Rigdon, who was driving about 10 car lengths behind Walker, told investigators that Walker made a U-turn after the crash and returned to the scene. She said Walker asked her to call 911 and said he hadn’t seen the bicycle.
She also told troopers the morning sun was bright.
The troopers’ investigation alleged that Walker, who resides on Thomas Boat Landing Road, had traveled about 100 feet with the passenger tires of his vehicle off the pavement, then struck the bicycle from behind.
He told troopers he was headed into town from him home.
A toxicology report, attached to the troopers’ homicide investigation, measured Walker’s blood-alcohol at 0.186 percent, more than double the .08 percent level at which Florida law presumes a motorist to be impaired. The report also detected the presence of a chemical compound that indicated Walker recently had consumed marijuana.
He consented to a blood draw at the crash scene.
Troopers asked him to provide a blood sample after noting his bloodshot eyes, breath and poor balance.
Walker, who was being held in the Lake County Jail on $50,000 bond, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the second-degree felony. He declined a request for an interview.