A Tampa man who allegedly fled the country to avoid responsibility for a deadly drunk-driving accident was sentenced to fifteen years in Florida prison last week.
Hillsborough County authorities say Christopher Ponce was intoxicated while driving southbound in the northbound lanes of I-275 one summer day in 2012. According to investigators Ponce piloted his then-new Ford Fusion head-on into a 2000 Ford Mustang driven by William Angel.
The accident, which took place near the I-4 interchange, killed the 20-year-old Angel instantly. Two of the Mustang’s other three occupants were severely injured as well – one was propelled through the windshield and landed upon the vehicle’s scorching engine.
Himself hospitalized at first, Ponce was subsequently jailed on charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide. Shortly afterward he was released and fitted with a GPS tracker while he awaited the wheels of due process. After a year of wearing the device, authorities say he removed it and became a fugitive.
After a manhunt that spanned the globe, Ponce was eventually traced to Spain’s Mediterranean coast, where he was arrested in 2016 and extradited back to Florida.
Ponce’s initial plea to the charges was not guilty. However, after hearing a string of Angel’s friends and relatives testify, he successfully requested that his plea be changed to guilty. Spared the need for a trial on the merits, Circuit Judge Nick Nazaretian proceeded with sentencing, electing to remand Ponce to the state’s prison system for a decade and a half. Upon his release, Ponce will serve another decade on probation as well as losing the right to drive. In addition, Ponce faces civil suits related to the events of that fateful summer day in 2012.