WEST PALM BEACH — An 18-year-old man was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Thursday after pleading guilty to charges related to a July 2021 Beeline Highway crash that killed four people.
Christopher Garrett Jr. received the sentence nearly two months after a judge rejected a plea deal that would have sent him to jail for 10 years in the wreckage of two vehicles near Palm Beach Gardens that killed Jay’ Oni Leonard, 14, Alexia Simpson, 17. , Elizabeth Anderson, 62, and George Nienhouse, 65.
He pleaded guilty to four counts of driving homicide and one count of robbery. Prosecutors dropped four counts of DUI manslaughter and four counts of driving with a suspended or revoked license causing injury or death.
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Garrett was 17 – a minor – and living near West Palm Beach at the time of the accident. The Attorney General’s office elected to charge him as an adult.
Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office investigators say Garrett stole a Nissan Rogue SUV from Rapids Water Park in Riviera Beach on the afternoon of July 30, 2021 and drove at speeds over 100 mph in the moments before colliding with another SUV at the intersection of Beeline Boulevard and PGA.
Leonard and Simpson were riding in the SUV with Garrett. Anderson and Nienhouse were the driver and passenger of the other SUV, according to court records.
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According to law enforcement records, the stolen SUV’s data recorder showed the vehicle was traveling at 109 mph seconds before the crash. Prior to the collision, West Palm Beach police spotted the Rogue and attempted to arrest it, but ended its pursuit on Northlake Boulevard after determining the pursuit had become too dangerous.
Toxicology results showed Garrett had marijuana in his system, PBSO said.
During a plea hearing before Circuit Court Judge Howard Coates on March 24, prosecutors proposed that Garrett be sentenced to 10 years in prison. Coates rejected that plea deal, calling the sentence too lenient.
At Thursday’s hearing, Coates accepted a plea deal of 15 years on each driving homicide charge and five years on the grand larceny charge, with the sentences to be served concurrently.
Also, Garrett’s driver’s license was revoked for 10 years.
Julius Whigham is a reporter covering public safety and criminal justice at the Palm Beach Post. You can reach him at [email protected] Help support our work: sign up today!