FORT PIERCE – In emotional testimony Monday, Tanner Dashner’s father said his son could tell right from wrong and called what happened “a terrible mistake.”
“I pray that the families involved can forgive Tanner and me for something that was unforeseen,” said Dashner’s father, Bradley Dashner. “He doesn’t have an angry bone in his body.”
The elder Dashner spoke in the courtroom of Senior Circuit Judge Robert Makemson at the St. Lucie County courthouse as part of the sentencing process for his son, who has been found guilty and jailed on numerous charges related to a 2018 fiery crash in which five people were killed.
Florida Highway Patrol investigators have reported that Tanner Dashner, now 24, had a blood alcohol level of 0.274 percent, more than three times the legal limit of 0.08.
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‘I can’t even call it an accident. It’s not an accident. It’s a tragedy,” Bradley Dashner said in the crowded courtroom. “We were always proud that Tanner was responsible for his actions.”
Tanner Dashner, then 21, was traveling at an estimated 97 mph in a 30 mph zone south of South 25th Street on Nov. 23, 2018, when his SUV collided with the back of a 2002 Dodge Dakota on Midway Road.
The Dodge, driven by Kedan Tillett, 27, of Fort Pierce, and a 2003 BMW in front of it, had stopped at the red light on Midway Road.
Dashner didn’t slow down when the Dodge and BMW started to accelerate from a stop after the red light turned green.
Dashner’s GMC hit the Dodge, which then crashed into the BMW. The GMC hit the Dodge a second time. The Dodge’s gas tank “was compromised and set on fire,” a report states.
Tillett and four passengers – Alexis Chaney, 17; Anthony Victor, 21; Anthony Martin, 16, all of Fort Pierce; and Darien Douglas, 21, of Port St. Lucie — all died when the pickup caught fire. A sixth person in the Dodge, then 14-year-old Ari’yonnia Stanberry of Stuart, was pulled from the truck by a bystander.
Dashner’s charges include five counts of each manslaughter by drink-driving and vehicular manslaughter, although attorney Ashley Minton Monday opposed the five counts of vehicular manslaughter.
After objections from Assistant Attorney Brandon White, Makemson agreed and the five vehicular murder charges were dropped.
Minton read several letters from Tanner Dashner’s associates and relatives, including his mother, praising his character and personality.
Under White’s questioning, Bradley Dashner said his son was not beaten or molested as a child and benefited from his and his wife taking care of him. He was an accomplished saxophonist with friends and had no disciplinary problems at school. Bradley Dashner said his son was raised as a law-abiding citizen.
“He’s not a drooling imbecile who doesn’t know what’s happening, right?” asked White.
“No,” Bradley Dashner replied.
“He knows good from evil?” asked White.
“Yeah,” Bradley Dashner replied.
In Dashner’s vehicle, investigators found a bottle of rum that was about a quarter full, and an empty bottle of whiskey.
Investigators found out that Dashner entered On the Edge Bar & Grill before the crash. Dashner was accompanied by two others and they sat at a table, records show. Not long after, two others joined them.
Defense witness Dr. Speaking via video conference from California, Joseph Wu reported viewing scans and finding possible evidence of traumatic brain injury and Asperger’s syndrome in Tanner Dashner.
White spent a lot of time attacking aspects of Wu’s testimony, noting that 100 percent of his past testimony was for the defense.
In response to questions from White, Wu said he has not spoken to Tanner Dashner or his mother or father or friends or reviewed previous medical records regarding Dashner’s previously reported injuries.
Wu said, under Minton’s questioning, that he was being held for a limited purpose.
Will Greenlee is a breaking news reporter for TCPalm. Follow Will on Twitter @OffTheBeatTweet or reach him by phone at 772-267-7926. Email him at [email protected]
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This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast newspapers: Tanner Dashner conviction in crash that killed 5 continues on Monday