The woman charged in the 2016 deaths of a Louisville police detective and a University of Kentucky employee pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of second-degree manslaughter and driving under the influence.
Suzanne Whitlow, 28, entered the “conditional plea” with the understanding that her attorney will appeal a judge’s decision to allow a jury to consider blood-alcohol evidence had the case gone to trial.
Whitlow acknowledged that she was impaired when she struck Detective Jason Schweitzer and UK employee Timothy Moore. Whitlow was driving southbound on South Upper Street when her vehicle struck Schweitzer, 37, and Moore, 56, who were standing at South Upper and Bolivar streets. In Lexington for a Fraternal Order of Police convention, Schweitzer and another person asked for directions while Moore and some co-workers stood in the doorway of the Heating and Cooling Division at Peterson Service Building, according to Moore’s boss. Schweitzer lingered and talked a bit more with Moore when the two were hit.
Among those attending Friday’s proceeding was Nicolai Jilek, president of the River City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 614 in Louisville.
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“Talking about finding justice in this is going to be difficult,” Jilek said. “How do you find justice for the loss of somebody that you are close with like that? Jason was monumental in our lodge and in the FOP and also with the police department. You know, anything that moves us closer to closure as we move through this process is really all we can hope for.”
Whitlow had completed alcohol driver education classes for a 2014 DUI conviction and license suspension a few weeks before the men were killed.
She admitted drinking several vodka and cranberry drinks before she lost control of her Dodge, Lexington police had said.
After establishing probable cause, police obtained a court order from a district judge directing Whitlow to have her blood drawn by UK Hospital medical staff in order to get a blood-alcohol level.
Defense attorney Jerry Wright was unsuccessful in having the blood-alcohol evidence excluded from trial. Wright argued in a June hearing that, under state law, police should have obtained a search warrant before having UK medical staff draw the sample.
Wright said Friday that he intends to appeal that question as part of Whitlow’s conditional plea.
“Miss Whitlow didn’t intend that night to go out and kill somebody,” Wright said. “It’s just a bad decision that turned horrible.”
The prosecution made no sentence recommendation to Fayette Circuit Judge Kimberly Bunnell. The maximum sentence Bunnell could impose is 20 years.
Bunnell scheduled sentencing for March 16.
Moore was a Navy veteran with three children and 12 grandchildren when he died. He was a year away from retirement. Schweitzer was expecting his second child when he was killed. He began in law enforcement in 2001 at the Jefferson County Police Department before moving to Louisville police. He was a vice president with River City FOP Lodge.
The estates of Moore and Schweitzer filed wrongful-death lawsuits last year against Whitlow and several bars that allegedly served her drinks before the crash. The suits claim that the bars knew or should have known that Whitlow was intoxicated at the time she was served.
The suit filed by the Moore estate names The Other Bar, Paddock Bar & Patio, Malabu Pub & Grille and Soundbar as defendants. The suit filed by the Schweitzer estate names those bars plus Two Keys Tavern as defendants.
Most or all of the bars have denied negligence and dispute the claims.