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Driver cited with careless driving in child fatality

By Staff | Jul 9, 2019

A traffic case involving the death of a 12-year-old North Fort Myers girl has been submitted to the State Attorney’s Office for its review at the request of the Florida Highway Patrol.

Alana Taplin died after she was struck by a vehicle while walking home from a school bus stop along Durrance Road in the early morning hours of Jan. 14.

The vehicle was driven by Mary Ann Miller, 62, of North Fort Myers, who has now been cited by FHP for careless driving involving a death.

Miller has entered a plea of not guilty and has requested a trial.

Her attorney, listed in court records as James Scarmozzino, did not immediately return an email requesting comment Tuesday.

“I am overjoyed at the response by the public,” said Sarah Tamplin, Alana’s mother. “However, I take this news with a grain of salt. This isn’t over and I am still concerned that our issues and those of other moms in similar situations may still be swept under the rug. My goal is to not only see justice achieved but to also change how our justice system tries cases, such as this. We need a different outlook. Our ideology should be to judge the consequences of the action, not the action that led to it. Let’s please face the facts here. A child died, death occurred, and that is where the law truly has a responsibility in providing justice.”

The full FHP crash investigation is not yet complete and so has not been released.

“The Florida Highway Patrol has conducted a traffic homicide investigation regarding the January 14, 2019 crash that occurred on Durrance Road in North Fort Myers, involving the death of Alana Tamplin,” FHP said in a statement regarding the incident. “The traffic homicide report detailing the findings of the investigation will be made available upon its completion. The driver involved in the crash, Mary Miller… was issued a citation for careless driving involving a death, which carries a mandatory court date.”

FHP has provided its investigation to the State Attorney’s Office as an agency review.

“The State Attorney’s Office will be reviewing their (FHP’s) investigation at the request of FHP to determine if criminal charges can be sustained as FHP does not believe criminal charges can be sustained,” SAO spokesperson Samantha Syoen said via email.

The review has no deadline date. Syoen said that the State Attorney’s Office for the 20th Judicial Circuit will “give it the time needed to review.”

Alana was walking with her best friend along the North Fort Myers road in the dim, early morning hours after dropping off her sister at a bus stop when she was struck by the front-right side of the Toyota SUV Miller was driving.

Alana’s best friend’s mother, Katie Johnson, is encouraged to see the case move to the State Attorney’s Office.

“I am thankful that this is going to be reviewed,” Johnson said. “I hope that justice will be done and at least we’ll have a trial.

“When you commit a crime you need to go in front of a judge and either be prosecuted or not prosecuted.”

There are no sidewalks, or adequate lighting on Durrance Road.

According to FHP, Miller “initially stopped but left the scene (in her vehicle). (Miller) returned to the scene a short time later.”

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj

*Editor’s note: This article was updated to provide additional comments by Sarah Tamplin.