Lake Worth Man Charged in December Crash That Killed an 80-Year-Old Woman

A 55-year-old Lake Worth man has been charged with DUI manslaughter and two counts of causing injury while driving under the influence for a December car crash that killed an 80-year-old woman, according to the Palm Beach State Attorney's Office.

Joseph Sterlicchi was booked into the Palm Beach County jail on the charges yesterday, more than eight months after the fatal crash.

According to a probable-cause affidavit, Sterlicchi attempted to make a left-hand turn in his Ford F-150 onto Lake Osborne Drive -- about half a mile west of the Lantana city limit -- and drove directly in front of oncoming traffic, colliding nearly head-on with a Ford Fusion being driven by a 33-year-old man.

The report says the vehicles "violently impacted," in which police said that "Sterlicchi made a collision unavoidable," even though the driver of the Fusion slammed on his brakes.

Both cars spun around a bit before coming to a stop -- with Sterlicchi's truck jumping a curb and landing in some grass -- and witnesses told police Sterlicchi never made an attempt to stop the car or avoid the crash, according to the report.

Dolores Whiteside, an 80-year-old Lake Worth resident who was a passenger in the Ford Fusion during the crash, was "critically injured" at the scene of the crash and was rushed to the Delray Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead about a day-and-a-half later.

Witnesses who saw the crash said they believed Sterlicchi was either drinking or on drugs at the time, and police inquired about that, according to the report.

Police went to the hospital, where Sterlicchi was being treated for minor injuries, and say in the report that he looked like he was falling asleep, asking him twice if he was awake while they were talking to him.

Sterlicchi refused to voluntarily give a blood sample to police but was forced to do so anyway as the cops said they had probable cause, according to the report.

The toxicology report came back two weeks later, showing that Sterlicchi's blood-alcohol level was .248 -- which is three times more than the legal limit of .08.

A medical examiner's report on Whiteside's death was turned over to police in April, when they found her cause of death to be multiple blunt-force injuries as a result of the car crash.

According to the State Attorney's Office, Sterlicchi could face a maximum of 15 years in prison if convicted on the DUI manslaughter charge and faces one year in the Palm Beach County jail on both charges of contributing to the injury of a person while driving under the influence.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley