BRADENTON — A 21-year-old woman Tuesday pleaded guilty to driving drunk and causing a wreck that killed respected Bradenton soup kitchen manager Mary Ann DeLazzer the day after Thanksgiving last year.
The plea by Julissa Martinez will mean the El Salvador native will spend at least the next four years of her life in prison for the DUI manslaughter conviction, Manatee Circuit Judge Diana Moreland said in court Tuesday.
Martinez faces a mandatory minimum of four years in prison, but under Florida sentencing guidelines she should be sentenced to just more than 10 years. Moreland can sentence her to the maximum of 15 years.
Florida Highway Patrol reports say just after 6 a.m. Nov. 28, 2008, Martinez plowed into the back of DeLazzer’s vehicle on State Road 70 at 30th Street East, in front of Wal-Mart.
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DeLazzer, 77, the longtime manager of Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, had been on her way to work where for two decades she served meals to the homeless.
DeLazzer’s car burst into flames and two bystanders pulled her from her vehicle, but FHP reports say the impact of the crash killed her instantly.
FHP reports say Martinez later “giggled” through sobriety tests, and had a .18 blood alcohol level on a breath test, more than double the legal limit in Florida of .08.
DeLazzer’s daughter, who came from Chicago to attend the hearing, wept during the hearing. She declined to comment before Martinez is sentenced, saying her family will be out in force at that time.
Martinez also cried as Moreland told her of the prison time she faces and set a sentencing hearing for Jan. 29.
Martinez opted not to put everyone involved through a trial, her attorney, Assistant Public Defender Franklin Roberts, said after his client pleaded guilty.
“She is incredibly remorseful. Every time I have talked with her about it, she has cried,” Roberts said. “It is a disaster in her life, and a disaster in the lives of Mary Ann DeLazzer’s family.”
As Martinez prepares to be sentenced, the community is set to remember DeLazzer for her accomplishments in life. At the next Bradenton City Council meeting Oct. 28, Mayor Wayne Poston will proclaim November 2009 in DeLazzer’s honor for her years of service at Our Daily Bread. The meeting begins at 6 p.m.
The proclamation will be presented to DeLazzer’s son Faust, and several officials with Our Daily Bread are expected to attend, according to city spokesman Tim McCann.
Poston said he is looking forward to honoring someone so dedicated to community service.
“Of course we appreciate her community service,” he said.
“Everyone I talked to who knew her has said she was the heart of Our Daily Bread. There were times she kept it open when no one else wanted to do it.”