Jury: Drunk driving killed Hawkins

Rebecca Padowitz

Rebecca Padowitz

Published: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 12:50 PM.

A Franklin County jury took a little more than an hour last week to decide that a 24-year-old Carrabelle woman drove drunk in a crash outside Carrabelle two years ago that killed one of her passengers.

The jury of four men and two women on March 13 found Rebecca Ann Padowitz, 24, guilty of DUI manslaughter in the April 17, 2012 death of Rona Lavon Hawkins, 28, of Sopchoppy.

Hawkins died at the scene of the one-car crash after his 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee, driven by Padowitz, spun out of control on U.S. 98 about 1.6 miles west of Lake Morality Road and about 0.8 miles east of the city of Carrabelle.

Padowitz faces up to 15 years in prison when she is slated to be sentenced by Circuit Judge George Reynolds on April 14.

According to Florida Highway Patrol reports in the case, the crash occurred about 9:12 p.m. after the eastbound Jeep lost control on a curve, flipped over and struck a tree, bursting into flames.

Padowitz, who was celebrating her 23rd birthday, had to be lifeflighted to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. A passenger in the back seat, Julian Kenneth Collins, 33, of Thomasville, Ga., escaped injury.

Collins told FHP investigators that he was able to crawl out of the passenger side door, and to pull Padowitz from the wreckage, but that Hawkins’s arm was pinned under the vehicle. A few minutes later, Collins was able to assist in freeing Hawkins, but, Collins said, “it was obvious he was deceased.”

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