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Man charged in fatal accident receives 15 years in prison

By Staff | Aug 2, 2011

A North Fort Myers man charged in a traffic accident that killed two nuns and injured a third received 15 years in prison Monday in a plea deal.

Michael G. Hickman, 60, of 1069 La Paloma Blvd., pleaded guilty to two counts of DUI manslaughter in a plea agreement with the State Attorney’s Office and was sentenced to the statutory maximum, officials reported.

His imprisonment will be followed by 15 years of state probation.

“During his 15 years of probation, he can have no alcohol, must undergo random alcohol screenings and must give one lecture a year at a church or school about the dangers of alcohol abuse,” Samantha Syoen, the State Attorney’s Office spokeswoman, wrote in a prepared statement.

If Hickman violates his probation, he could face another 15 years in prison.

On Sept. 27, 2009, Hickman was driving north on U.S. 41 when he tried to turn west onto Grand Via Drive in North Fort Myers, entering the path of a vehicle driven by Sister Elizabeth Meegan, 67, and occupied by Sisters Ann McFall, 84, and Sister Karinne O’Malley, 80. The two vehicles collided.

Sister O’Malley died at the scene, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Sisters Meegan and McFall were transported to Lee Memorial Hospital, along with Hickman. Sister McFall died of her injuries at the hospital, while Sister Meegan and Hickman were treated and later released.

FHP reported that a blood sample taken from Hickman came back with a blood alcohol content of .228. The “presumed impairment level” is .08.

In addition to the DUI manslaughters, Hickman had been facing DUI cause person and or property damage and DUI unlawful blood alcohol .15 or higher.

“The two misdemeanor charges were severed as part of the plea agreement,” Syoen wrote Tuesday in an e-mail. “They each only carried a maximum penalty of one year in jail.”

Hickman faced a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison on each DUI manslaughter charge if convicted.

“This is a very sad case,” Syoen wrote.

“We are pleased with the resolution and it was in the best interest of all involved,” she continued. “The families (of the victims) can now move on and this meets their wishes of not having to go through a trial.”

Attorney Barbara Trescott, who represented Hickman, echoed that.

“It would have been difficult for both sides,” she said Tuesday. “Difficult in the emotional aspect and having to relive the trauma and the pain of going through that, on top of the deaths and going to prison.”

“The plea was in everyone’s best interest,” Trescott said.

The negotiated plea was below guidelines. Based on his score sheet, Hickman would have received 22 to 24 years if he had pleaded straight to the judge.

“Because of our work on the case, we were able to come to an agreement that reflected the wright of the evidence and the seriousness of the charges and the gravity of the results of the accident,” Trescott said.

Sister O’Malley was born Oct. 25, 1928, in Chicago, 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, 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. She came to the Cape in 2007 and volunteered for St. Andrew Catholic Church.

Assistant State Attorneys Susan Dendy and Devin George handled the case.