WEST PALM BEACH — An 18-year-old man was sentenced to 15 years in prison Thursday after he pleaded guilty to charges related to a July 2021 Beeline Highway crash that killed four people.
Christopher Garrett Jr. received the sentence nearly two months after a judge rejected a plea agreement that would have sent him to prison for 10 years in the two-vehicle wreck near Palm Beach Gardens that killed Jay'Oni Leonard, 14, Alexia Simpson, 17, Elizabeth Anderson, 62, and George Nienhouse, 65.
He pleaded guilty to four counts of vehicular homicide and one count of grand theft. Prosecutors dropped four counts of DUI manslaughter and four counts of driving with a suspended or revoked license causing injury or death.
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Garrett was 17 years old – a juvenile – and living near West Palm Beach at the time of the crash. The State Attorney's Office chose to charge him as an adult.
Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office investigators said Garrett stole a Nissan Rogue SUV from the Rapids Water Park in Riviera Beach on the afternoon of July 30, 2021, and drove at speeds in excess of 100 mph in the moments before colliding with another SUV at the intersection of the Beeline and PGA Boulevard.
Leonard and Simpson were riding in the SUV with Garrett. Anderson and Nienhouse were the driver and passenger of the other SUV, court records show.
'We're talking about four deaths': Judge rejects plea deal for teen accused in Beeline Highway crash
According to law-enforcement records, the stolen SUV's data recorder showed that the vehicle was traveling at 109 mph seconds before the crash. Prior to the collision, West Palm Beach police spotted the Rogue and attempted to stop it but ended their pursuit at Northlake Boulevard after determining the chase had become too dangerous.
Toxicology results showed that Garrett had marijuana in his system, PBSO said.
During a plea hearing before Circuit Court Judge Howard Coates on March 24, prosecutors proposed that Garrett be sentenced to 10 years in prison. Coates rejected that plea deal, calling the sentence too lenient.
During Thursday's hearing, Coates accepted a plea agreement of 15 years for each vehicular homicide count, and five years for the grand theft charge, with the sentences to be served concurrently.
In addition, Garrett's driver's license was revoked for 10 years.
Julius Whigham is a journalist covering public safety and criminal justice at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Help support our work: Subscribe today!
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Florida teen sentenced in fatal Beeline crash near Palm Beach Gardens