Okeechobee woman charged with DUI manslaughter

OKEECHOBEE — An Okeechobee woman is in jail on a $1 million bond in connection with a DUI accident that left two pedestrians dead.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
“Directly across the street from where my sister and her boyfriend got hit, there is another cross from where someone else was hit and killed by a drunk driver,” said Franci Williams, Carly Walls’ sister. “I want someone to do something about that road out there. My sister was three feet off the road and still got hit by this lady.”

Two Okeechobee residents were killed Sept. 25 after being struck by a passing truck while walking along U.S. 441 Southeast. Carly Morgan Walls, 24, and Jesse Joseph Vayda, 21, were walking northbound when they were reportedly hit by the right front corner of a white Ford pickup driven by 50-year-old Kelly Carter-Knapik. Ms. Walls was pronounced dead on the scene, and Mr. Vayda was transported to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in critical condition but succumbed to his injuries later.

At approximately 11 p.m. Wednesday night, a member of the Okeechobee Narcotics Task Force was traveling north on U.S. 441 Southeast when he observed some debris in the roadway and saw a white pickup with one headlight inoperative turning around. He notified other members of the task force he thought there might have been an accident, and he stopped to investigate while one of the other officers stopped the white pickup. The Florida Highway Patrol was alerted about the crash.

When he stopped where he thought the accident might have occurred, the officer found Ms. Walls and Mr. Vayda on the side of the road.

When Florida Highway Patrol Cpl. W.B. Fenton arrived on the scene, he spoke to Carter-Knapik and reportedly detected an odor of alcohol coming from her breath. According to the arrest report, she briefly described the events of the crash and then told him she defecated on the side of the road and used papers from her vehicle to wipe herself. Trooper Ricky J. Haggard obtained a voluntary blood sample from her, which was drawn by Okeechobee County Fire Rescue at the scene. Then Trooper Haggard retrieved the papers Carter-Knapik used to wipe herself after defecating and placed them into evidence.

Assistant State Attorney Don Richards was on the scene and advised them he would like to speak with her at the sheriff’s office. He also requested a breath sample after the standard field sobriety test was completed. She was interviewed by ASA Don Richards, ASA Ruby Prieto and Cpl. Fenton, and afterward was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide and two counts of DUI manslaughter. She was booked into the Okeechobee County Jail. Bond was set at $1 million.

Deputy Steven Pollock reportedly obtained two breath samples, which registered a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.189 at 2:06 a.m. and 0.195 at 2:09 a.m. Under Florida law, a motorist whose BAC is 0.08 or higher is considered “under the influence.”

According to Cpl. Fenton, Carter-Knapik displayed a cavalier attitude during the course of the interview and showed no remorse for her actions.

Ms. Walls’ sister Franci Williams said she would really like to see some awareness brought to the road where the accident happened. It’s too dark out there, and there are no sidewalks, she said. Her sister was planning to walk home, and Mr. Vayda didn’t want her to walk by herself so late at night so he walked up to meet her, and as they both walked back in the dark, they were struck and killed. “Directly across the street from where my sister and her boyfriend got hit, there is another cross from where someone else was hit and killed by a drunk driver,” said Ms. Williams. “I want someone to do something about that road out there. My sister was three feet off the road and still got hit by this lady.”

Ms. Williams does not understand what she was told by the FHP officer about the driver’s attitude. “If I hit someone, I would feel remorse. I would feel guilt. The FHP guy told us she sounded like she had no remorse. I don’t understand that. It’s disgusting. They were young kids. My sister’s birthday was Oct. 8. She would have been 25. She was a bright light. She loved everybody, and everybody loved her. Jesse loved God. He was spiritual, and he loved my sister, and they loved each other. They were going to make a life together,“ she said.

A memorial fund for Carly Walls has been set up on gofundme.com to help with funeral costs. Click HERE to donate.

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