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Charges levied in double fatality crash

By Staff | Feb 11, 2010

The charges against a North Fort Myers man accused in the deaths of two nuns could change depending on information the State Attorney’s Office has yet to receive.
Michael G. Hickman, 60, of 1069 La Paloma Blvd., was arrested and charged Tuesday on a warrant for two felony counts of DUI manslaughter, one felony count of DUI with serious bodily injury to another and one misdemeanor count of DUI second offense or more.
“Late Friday we approved a warrant for his arrest after completing part of our review of the facts of the case,” Sam-antha Syoen, spokeswoman for the State Attorney’s Office for the 20th Judicial Circuit, said. “The warrant was signed off by a judge.” According to Syoen, the charges filed against Hickman are only the initial charges. The State Attorney’s Office is waiting on additional materials from other agencies. After officials review the additional information, the charges against Hickman could be altered.
“These charges may increase or change,” she said.
Hickman is currently facing a maximum sentence of 15 years for each count of DUI manslaughter, a maximum of five years for the DUI with serious bodily injury and a maximum of one year for the DUI second offense or more.
Syoen said officials at the State Attorney’s Office were told they would receive the additional materials in the next two to three weeks.
According to a Florida Highway Patrol report, Hickman was driving a Chevy Tahoe north on U.S. 41 at about 3:30 p.m. Sept. 27 when he made a left turn to travel west on Grand Via Drive in North Fort Myers. The SUV entered the path of a Toyota Prius, driven by Sister Elizabeth Meegan, 67, and occupied by Sisters Ann McFall, 84, and Sister Karinne O’Malley, 80.
The force of the collision caused both vehicles to spin, with the SUV coming to rest across the eastbound lanes of Gran Via facing north. The Prius came to rest in the intersection facing west, according to officials. Sister O’Malley died at the scene, while Sister McFall died later at Lee Memorial Hospital.
Sister Meegan, the principal of St. Andrew Catholic School, was also taken to Lee Memorial Hospital, as was Hickman. She was listed in serious condition, but was treated and released. Hickman also recovered from his injuries.
Sister Meegan could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
FHP spokesman Lt. Chris Miller said the investigation is “basically closed.”
“We received the blood alcohol level, completed the investigation and filed charges with the State Attorney’s Office,” he said.
According to Miller, authorities drew blood from Hickman and sent the sample to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for testing. Hickman’s sample came back with a blood alcohol content of .228. The “presumed impairment level,” or legal limit, in the state of Florida is .08, he added.
“Well over the legal limit,” Miller said of Hickman’s alleged BAC results.
Hickman remained at the Lee County Jail on $60,000 bond Wednesday evening, according to jail booking records. His next court date is set for March 15 at 8:30 a.m.
At the time of the crash, Sisters O’Malley and McFall were returning home from a regional meeting of the Dominican Sisters, according to officials. Both received their training at Sinsinawa Dominican Novitiate in Wisconsin.
Bob Reddy, assistant communications director for the Diocese of Venice, said officials would not comment on the legal aspect of the case.
“As Catholics, we look toward redemption and forgiveness. As far as the legal system, that’s up to the legal system to do what they’re going to do. We’re more focused on the religious side,” he said. “It’s up to the individual to seek forgiveness. As Catholics, we forgive pretty easily.”
Reddy added that the diocese is saddened by the tragedy.
“We are very sad that this happened and wish it didn’t happen, but we pray for Mr. Hickman because he’s dealing with causing the loss of two lives,” he said. “We also pray for the families of the two sisters, for the school and for the parish, who lost two leaders in the community.”
Sister O’Malley was born Oct. 25, 1928, in Chicago, Ill., and joined the Sinsinawa Dominicans in 1949. She worked as a teacher in Wisconsin, Alabama, Iowa, New York and Illinois before moving to Cape Coral in 1988.
A founding member of St. Andrew Catholic School, she was an administrative assistant until 1996, when she became a migrant tutor in Bonita Springs.
Sister McFall was born Aug. 25, 1925, also in Chicago, Ill., and joined the Sinsinawa Dominicans in 1943. She worked as a teacher in Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and as a principal in Nebraska, Oklahoma and Arizona. In 2007, she came to Cape Coral and worked as a volunteer for St. Andrew Catholic Church.