Florida woman will not face charges in former Waterford woman's death

A yearlong investigation into the death of a former Waterford woman last May in Florida after she was hit and killed by a truck while riding her bicycle will not yield criminal charges against the driver, a spokeswoman for the Florida state attorney’s office said Friday.

Samantha Syoen said the Florida Highway Patrol turned over the results of its investigation to the state’s attorney to see whether they had enough evidence to pursue a charge of driving under the influence manslaughter against the driver, Theresa L. Shirley, who killed Tracey Kleinpell while she was biking on the Sanibel Causeway.

“Under Florida law, there was not enough evidence to arrest her for anything,” Syoen said.

Kleinpell was riding on the causeway’s shoulder toward Sanibel Island with her husband when a truck heading in the opposite direction drifted across the lane and hit her.

The impact sent Kleinpell over the waist-high guardrails and into San Carlos Bay, police said. Passing boaters pulled Kleinpell aboard and brought her to shore, where CPR was performed until paramedics arrived, but Kleinpell was pronounced dead at the scene.

The decision not to pursue criminal charges has upset the victim’s family.

“My mom and dad are devastated,” said Kleinpell’s sister, Tina Peck of Waterford. “They are a mess. It’s a grave injustice.”

Peck said she wished police had conducted more tests of Shirley at the scene. Peck noted, and court records show, that Shirley was convicted of drunken driving in 2009.

“My sister is dead and no one is being held accountable for it,” Peck said.

Syoen also noted that Shirley was not arrested at the scene but recently has been given a traffic ticket for failure to drive within a single lane in connection with the accident.

Syoen said police interviewed witnesses who saw Peck driving as well as people who spoke to her prior to the accident. None of the witnesses, she said, could say that Shirley was impaired.

She also said that blood was taken from Shirley at the scene, and while prescription drugs were found in her system, they did not rise to a level that would have impaired her driving.

i.larraneta@theday.com

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