The man accused of causing a traffic crash that killed two young women in the southwest part of the county early last year will spend at least 15 years in prison after he is sentenced next month.
Dalton Roy Edwards, 22, appeared before Circuit Judge Howard Maltz on Monday morning in the St. Johns County courthouse and pleaded no contest to two counts of DUI manslaughter in a plea arrangement that carries a sentencing range of 15 to 23 years.
Edwards was arrested in July 2016 on a warrant for his involvement in a January crash in Flagler Estates that killed 19-year-old Katherine Stecker, of St. Augustine, and Victoria Sutton, 20, of Tennessee.
Charged as the at-fault driver, Edwards originally faced the two counts of DUI manslaughter as well as two counts of vehicular homicide, and a single count each of DUI with property damage and possession of an alcoholic beverage by a person under 21 years of age.
According to his arrest warrant, Edwards was at the wheel of a Ford pickup when he ran a stop sign at the intersection of Yelvington Road and Isaacson Avenue and slammed into a Chevrolet Trailblazer driven by Sutton.
Stecker was one of two passengers in Edwards’ truck.
His blood alcohol level was .105 at the time of the crash, according to records read in court on Monday.
Per the terms of the plea agreement, Edwards will also lose his driver’s license for life, and Maltz, who will decide on the amount of time that Edwards spends in prison, can also impose a term of probation to be served upon his release.
Edwards, who has remained in jail since his arrest, except for a furlough granted by Judge Michael Traynor so he could attend a family member’s funeral, requested an additional furlough prior to sentencing to “say goodbye” to family members and move some of his possessions out of the home where he had been living.
Maltz denied the request.
Edwards’ sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 6.
Patten to stand trial
Later that same morning, Maltz scheduled for trial a 28-month-old case against a man accused of firing a gun at a St. Augustine police officer.
Charles Deonte Patten is facing a single charge of attempted second-degree murder of a law enforcement officer stemming from the June 2015 incident near O’Steen’s restaurant on Anastasia Boulevard. He is also facing a single count of carrying a concealed firearm and three counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Patten was arrested June 28 after St. Augustine Police Officer Lora Vaughn responded to the area on Anastasia Blvd. just after 2 a.m. following complaints of gunshots being fired.
According to the charging affidavit in the case, Patten fired a single shot at Vaughn’s patrol vehicle while she had the vehicle’s emergency lights activated and its spotlight trained on him. After the first shot was fired, Vaughn “took evasive action by driving the vehicle forward,” the affidavit says.
As she did so, Patten, who was standing in an alleyway near O’Steen’s, fell backward, firing a second shot, according to the document. He was taken into custody a short time later without incident.
Patten, who, in the course of 28 months has had at least three court-appointed attorneys (including two from the Public Defender’s Office), has tried representing himself, and been in held in contempt once, told Maltz on Monday that he had a conflict with the Public Defender’s investigator and asked for a continuance.
Maltz told Patten that the situation he described with the Public Defender’s Office was not a conflict of interest and said the case had been pending long enough.
It is scheduled for jury selection on Oct. 16 with the trial to begin on Oct. 25.