An Ocala woman known worldwide for flashing a grin in her arrest mugshot last year has accepted a plea deal in a drunk driving case that left a woman dead – a turn of events that didn’t sit well with two of the victim’s family members.
Angenette Welk, 45, who was arrested last May after a three-vehicle crash claimed the life of 60-year-old Sandra Lee Clarkston, pleaded no contest to a charge of DUI manslaughter and two counts of DUI with property damage.
She faces sentencing next month in front of Judge Steven G. Rogers and could serve as many as 17 years in prison. But the harsher charge she was facing, vehicular manslaughter, was taken off the table in the plea arrangement.
Several members of Clarkston’s family were in the courtroom Monday to hear the plea bargain announced. Both her twin brother, Daniel Clarkston, and her daughter, Keonna Sciacca, broke down in tears as Assistant State Attorney Janine Nixon read the details of the crash that took Clarkston’s life just days after she turned 60.
Welk was originally arrested by a Florida Highway Patrol trooper on May 10, 2018 after her 2011 Chevy Avalanche slammed into the back of a 2017 Hyundai Elantra driven by Clarkston’s 18-year-old daughter, Shiyanne Kroll, of Seattle. The crash occurred at the intersection of NW 60th Avenue and U.S. Hwy. 27 and left Clarkston, of Sarasota, suffering from critical injuries. She died four days later while being treated at Ocala Regional Medical Center.
Welk, who married 46-year-old Eric John Missett, of Ocala, seven days after the crash, had provided two breath samples showing .172 and .165 blood alcohol content – both twice the legal limit of .08 in Florida. She told the trooper investigating the crash that she had dropped her phone and when she looked up, she was about to collide with Kroll’s sedan.
After the hearing, Sciacca said she doesn’t think Welk should have been given the opportunity to cut a deal on the charges against her.
“It’s a pretty open-and-shut case and what she did was just murder with a vehicle but not a gun,” Sciacca said. “I think all too often this happens and I don’t agree with it.”
Daniel Clarkston said his sister was a “beautiful person” and is missed.
“She was sitting there with her daughter in traffic, not bothering nobody and wanting to go have fun the day after her birthday,” he said. “She probably lived 12 hours after her birthday because some drunk driver decides she thinks she’s going to get away with, ‘Oh, I dropped my phone.’ There wasn’t even any skid marks. So the way I look at it is they saved her life that day – and she took my sister’s life.”
Sciacca, Daniel Clarkston and several other family members plan to attend Welk’s sentencing hearing, which hasn’t yet been scheduled. At that time, Rogers could order her to serve as many as 17 years behind bars.
“I would like to see that happen,” Daniel Clarkston said.
“No leniency,” Sciacca added.
As for her mother, Sciacca said she was a great mom and is missed every day.
“I can’t get her back,” she said. “I’ve got no more time with her and I don’t think it’s fair. So I hope (Welk) gets the max that she can get.”
Sciacca added that her sister, Shiyanne Kroll, is still struggling to come to grips with the crash and the death of their mother.
“My sister is going through hell,” Sciacca said quietly. “She’s going through it real bad.”
Up until last month, Welk had been living in Washington State. But Rogers signed an order revoking her bond after she received an unspecified medical treatment. That order didn’t list specifics about the care she received but it cited the case of Barns v. State, which prevented a man involved in a similar DUI manslaughter case from consuming alcohol. A Palm Beach Shores Police officer later reported seeing the man “in a highly intoxicated state” and his bond was revoked.
In that precedent-setting case from September 2000, the judge ruled that it was necessary to incarcerate the man because allowing him to remain free – even on a higher bond – “would place the community at risk of physical harm no matter what amount of bond or other condition was imposed.”
Welk’s initial booking photo at the Marion County Jail, which showed her grinning with her head tilted to one side, quickly gained worldwide notoriety on websites and television stations and in newspapers across the world. It also caused her attorney, Stacy Youmans, to quickly defend her client by referring to her as a “a good-hearted person, a wife, mother and friend who is devastated by what happened.”
Youmans, a Florida native and former prosecutor, has extensive courtroom experience and is well-known to many Villagers. She recently successfully represented 21-year-old Brice Hall, who escaped prosecution for a charge of manslaughter in the death of a McCall’s Tavern employee in June 2016 in The Villages. Youmans had filed a motion to dismiss the case against her client using a Stand Your Ground defense.