BRADENTON, Fla. – A man whose road rage scared another driver into a crash that killed a teenager was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
A jury decided that Bruce Eric Payton, 49, was responsible for the crash that happened, witnesses said, after he chased and fired gunshots at a truck that cut him off on a highway on May 27, 2005.
When the truck ran through a red light, it crashed into a vehicle carrying Elizabeth Naomi Toribio, 14, who died. Her brother, sister and a family friend were critically hurt.
Payton was convicted and sentenced Thursday on charges of manslaughter, leaving the scene of a fatal accident and aggravated assault with a firearm. The driver of the truck was not charged.
Defense attorneys argued Payton brandished a cell phone, not a gun, as he chased the truck, and that he didn't know a crash had occurred. The weapon was never found.
Before the sentencing, Payton, who said his mother had known the girl, apologized to her family.
"She was a sweet young lady," he said. "All I can say is I'm sorry. I'm very sorry."
Some of the girl's family previously said they were angered that prosecutors declined to charge the driver of the pest control truck, but her father said that's no longer the case.
"This is the only time we've heard the facts," Pedro Toribio Sr. told the Bradenton Herald. "Now we know what really happened."