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DUI manslaughter case proceeding, but slowly

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Published:   |   Updated: September 1, 2013 at 08:41 AM

TAMPA — A few seconds was all it took for Roy Kohlier to lose his daughter, who was killed by a car as she crossed the South Harbour Island Bridge.

Three years later, Kohlier is still waiting for justice.

The DUI manslaughter case against the local dentist driving the car has yet to go to court as lawyers on both sides continue to depose a long list of witnesses, go through mountains of evidence and interview a slew of scientific experts. A separate civil lawsuit is likely to go trial this fall, well before the criminal case.

Kohlier, 51, didn't think the legal process would take this long.

“I was under the impression that it would take a year or a year and a half at most,” he said. “The length of time is frustrating. But (the lawyers) being deliberate, crossing their T's and dotting their I's, is comforting. They don't want to leave room for mistakes to be made.”

Joseph Bodiford, an adjunct professor at Stetson University's College of Law, said it is unusual but not unheard of for DUI manslaughter cases to take years to go to trial.

“The vast majority of DUI manslaughter cases has more forensic evidence than murder cases,” said Bodiford, who is also a criminal defense lawyer in Tampa. “There's layer after layer. Even one deposition leads into an investigation and then that leads to finding an expert witness. It's complex.”

Kohlier said waiting for answers has prolonged his pain.

“There's not a day that goes by that you don't remember,” he said. “It's hard to have closure. Is it frutrasting? Yes. But I can't do anything about it.”

His daughter, 24-year-old Kate Kohlier, and her co-worker Doug Kozar were walking toward the Harbour Island parking garage at 1:45 a.m. on Oct. 30, 2010, after finishing their shifts at the Marriott Waterside Hotel.

Police said that's when Riverview dentist Matthew Moye lost control of the 2011 Cadillac CTS he was driving as the car was going south on the bridge. The Cadillac went over a curb, onto the sidewalk, struck a large planter, then careened into Kohlier and Kozar, police said.

Kohlier died of a brain injury after the impact threw her into the bridge's concrete wall, the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office said.

The force of the crash threw Kozar over a concrete rail and into a net-like retaining fence, the medical examiner said. Kozar died of a lacerated heart.

Moye, 37, is facing two counts of DUI manslaughter and two counts of vehicular homicide. His wife, Kelly Moye, and friend Rachel Sady, who were riding with him that night as they headed home from a Halloween costume party, told police they did not see Matthew Moye drinking that night.

Moye also told investigators that he hadn't been drinking, according to court documents. But blood drawn hours after the wreck show his blood-alcohol content was 0.13, over the state limit of .08. The maximum penalty for DUI manslaughter is 30 years in prison.

Moye's lawyer, Stephen Romine, declined to comment on his client or the details of his case. But Romine acknowledged the complexities and scope of the case.

“We're still in the discovery process,” Romine said. “We have a voluminous number of witnesses to talk to. It's a very large, complex case.”

Prosecutors said they continue to take depositions from witnesses and interview experts.

Bodiford, the Stetson law professor, said it is not surprising both the prosecution and defense have so much groundwork to complete before Moye's case goes to trial.

“Most likely they have a ton of expert witnesses,” he said. “Then you have the blood draw, and if part of the defense is some kind of vehicle malfunction, that has to be looked at, too. When vehicles are involved, there's always some issue that comes out.”

Since 2010, about 50 subpoenas have been issued in Moye's case and about 40 depositions have been taken, court records show. Because attorneys for both sides are still in the discovery phase, more depositions are likely to follow.

Bodiford said he feels the lawyers and judge are making sure all angles are covered.

“In complex forensic cases such as this, judges want to take time to do it right and do it once,” Bodiford said. “That outweighs the push for judgment. The vox populi doesn't want to hear it, but the defense has the right to a fair trial. It's unpopular because two people are dead and there's a guy who hasn't been brought to trial for three years.”

The families of Kohlier and Kozar also have filed a civil suit against Moye, seeking damages of more than $15,000.

The civil case could go to trial this fall, said attorney Thomas Carey, who represents Kohlier's mother, Cindy Collins.

The civil case has also seen its share of delays. Moye has declined to be deposed by lawyers for the plaintiffs.

“The defendant didn't want to talk, so that tends to slow things down,” Carey said. “We'd like to depose him and hear his side. But it's OK. We've got other witnesses.”

rreyes@tampatrib.com

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