Mother pleads guilty in DUI crash that killed 2 sons

Tonya Capallia-Eason to be sentenced March 29

By Corley Peel - Reporter, Jenese Harris - Reporter/anchor

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. - A woman charged with two counts of DUI manslaughter in the 2016 crash, in which her two sons died, pleaded guilty Thursday in Nassau County Court.

Tonya Capallia-Eason faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years.

She will be sentenced March 29.  

Investigators said Capallia-Eason was driving with eight children in a Ford Explorer and had a blood alcohol level almost double the legal limit when she struck a utility pole Oct. 22, 2016, on Lonnie Crews Road.

Nicholai Capallia, 9, and Nehemiah Capallia-Bird, 8, were killed in the crash. Troopers said the six other children were injured.

Andrew Bird, the boys' father and Capallia-Eason's ex-husband, said he's been waiting too long for her plea.

"It's kind of bittersweet. I mean, there is some relief. But at the same time, it doesn't change anything that happened," Bird told News4Jax by phone Thursday night. "It's been a roller coaster. It's been a constant up-and-down of emotion."

Bird, who lives in Michigan, said Capallia-Eason took their three children, including the two boys who died in the crash, to Florida during a custody battle. He said that, if the state had kept her from taking their children, the crash could have been prevented.

"I do feel that they are some of the blame for what happened since it should have never happened had they properly followed custody laws," Bird said. 

The daughter of Bird and Capallia-Eason was one of the children hurt in the crash. She's now living in Michigan with her father and learning to live without her brothers. 

"She's in school. Her physical injuries have fully healed. Given what happened, she's a very happy and normal 8-year-old," Bird said. "So there has been some very high points and there have been some very low points."

Bird said he plans on traveling to Florida for Capallia-Eason's sentencing hearing, during which he plans to give a statement.

"It's been a very long time coming for Tonya to own up to what she did," he said. "But I just appreciate everything that everyone has done for us. No matter how big or small, it's all big as far as I'm concerned."

Capallia-Eason remains in the Nassau County Jail.

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