Opening arguments began Monday in the trial of a man charged with causing an accident that killed six members of an extended family on U.S. Highway 1 north of Callahan in 2010.
The Florida Highway Patrol charged 40-year-old Pedro Alcazar with six counts of vehicular homicide after the crash that killed two women and four children heading for Jacksonville.
"I am an innocent person and I am carrying the love and the spirit of six family members to bring out the truth of the reality of what happened that day, that they're not pointing the finger at the right person," said Alcazar, who's representing himself.
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 FHP, 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 Dhanja also died in the crash.
"Everybody in the car had something ahead of them, and I just want those six people to be remembered as a blessing, and I want the man who was responsible for this wreck to pay," said Page Martin, Miya Mitchell's older sister.
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.
A pickup truck pulling a flatbed trailer heading north swerved to avoid the dust, went into the median and ran over the victims' vehicle, according to the FHP report.
The driver of the pickup was not hurt, but passenger Charlene Freeman, 27, of Kathleen, Fla., was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.
The crash happened on Easter weekend and the Mitchells were on their way to visit a family member just released from prison.
Alcazar said he was going to see family, too.
"I was on my way to pick up my 2- and 3-year-old to bring to my new apartment where I was laying new tile. I wanted them to help me," he said.
Alcazar was also injured in the wreck, but was later booked into the Nassau County jail and ordered held on $300,012 bond.
"This is not about closure about me, This is about closure about the family that's still alive from these six loved ones who were taken away," Alcazar said Monday. "In a way it's been a good thing because now I can bring the truth forward. I call them my family because I love people, it doesn't matter if I know you or not."
Harry Martin, the father of Miya Mitchell, who was killed in the crash, said he doesn't want Alcazar to spend the rest of his life in prison, but would like him to pay for the accident he's on trial for.
"I have to pass that area every day, driving back and forth home from where she was killed," Martin said. "It's painful but I have to deal with it."
"I just want an apology from him, that's all," Page Martin said of Alcazar. "And looking at how things pan out with this trial, I have to know that it's a guarantee that I won't get that apology that I'm looking for from him."
"This time of year, especially (Miya's) birthday coming up, my birthday coming up, and knowing I can't see her other than going to visit a gravesite, that hurts me," Page said. "I just want to close this chapter and know that justice is going to served."
A check of court records found that Alcazar has been cited several times between 1993 and 2005 for traffic infractions, many of them for driving with a suspended driver's license. He has also been cited on other traffic violations and was arrested on domestic violence charges.