YULEE, Fla. - A jury on Tuesday convicted a man charged with causing a crash that killed six members of an extended family on U.S. Highway 1 north of Callahan in 2010.
Pedro Alcazar, 42, who's represented himself, was found guilty of six counts of vehicular homicide in the deaths of two women and four children. He now faces up to life in prison. A sentencing hearing is set for Feb. 13.
Alcazar took the stand Tuesday and had an emotional breakdown, saying his car had a tire blowout, which caused him to crash.
"Your honor, I'm innocent. I didn't do those things," Alcazar said. "I promise to those kids' lives I didn't do this. Those are the wrong accusations."
The state, however, said his reckless driving caused him to have a blowout while he was spinning out of control. Prosecutors said he was speeding and driving erratically.
"Mr. Alcazar, you lost control of your car because you were going too fast, over the speed limit, you were trying to pass a car and didn't leave enough room to make the pass. Isn't that what happened?" prosecutor Stephen Siegel asked.
"If those are your assumptions, you're wrong and so are they because that never happened," Alcazar said.
THE VICTIMS: LEFT: Brenda Mitchell Edwards, 57, of Jacksonville, and Melissa Mitchell, 39, of Lawrenceville, Ga. RIGHT: Miya Mitchell 11, of Lawrenceville, Dhanja Mitchell, 16, of Jacksonville, and 4-year-old…
The crash happened just before 5 p.m. April 2, 2010, near Kelly's RV Park, about five miles north of Callahan.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, all the victims who died were riding in a four-door Nissan.
The driver, 39-year-old Melissa Mitchell, of Lawrenceville, Ga., along with her 11-year-old daughter Miya and 4-year-old twin boys Christian and Keyshawn were killed in the wreck.
Brenda Mitchell Edwards, 57, of Jacksonville, who was the front-seat passenger and Mitchell's mother, and her 16-year-old granddaughter D'hanja also died in the crash.
Investigators said a Chevrolet Camaro, driven by Alcazar, was headed south at a high speed and attempted to pass the victims' vehicle.
Troopers said the Camaro sideswiped the Nissan, causing it to lose control and overturn.
As the families left from opposite sides of the courtroom Tuesday, Alcazar's loved ones embraced the Mitchells and apologized, something they say they've been wanting to do for nearly four years.
"It means a lot to me," said Loretta Bailey, a relative of the victims. "It really does. It means a lot to me to know that at least they can feel what my family is feeling."
Bailey said Melissa Mitchell will be remembered for her soft-spoken voice; D'hanja, for her love of writing music; the twins, who got a kick out of confusing their family; Miya, who she says was as sweet as a baby doll; and Brenda Edwards, for her ability to make others laugh.
"They were wonderful, absolutely wonderful," Bailey said.
Edwards was former Jaguar Larry Smith Jr.'s mom.
"It's very hard watching and reliving, and all the events that took place and seeing the evidence and the photos, and just listening to all the testimony, it was real grueling," Smith said.
"He took my mother, which is my first love, my sister, that was my best friend, my first niece, my twin nephews and my daughter," Monique Mitchell said. "I can never see any of those kids grow up. My mom can't see them anymore. He took everything from me."
Alcazar has also lost out on seeing his granddaughter, born on the day of the accident.
"We have to look at her every day and see the loss of those six people, and our heart goes out to them," said Tammy Masse, the mother of Alcazar's daughter.
It's a been a painful road for the Mitchells, who are so appreciative of the community's support.
"For feeling our pain and sharing in our pain, and I thank them for that," Bailey said.
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