A request for clemency
Esther Faith Holman, convicted and sentenced to over fourteen years in prison for the DUI caused accident resulting in the death of a newlywed bride on her wedding day, is petitioning The Florida Board of Executive Clemency for a commutation of her sentence. From the Pensacola News-Journal-
Lori Dwelle's parents and husband look at the wedding pictures over and over.
The young bride and her husband, Scott, standing outside Pine Forest United Methodist Church, where they were married, fixated on each other. Gazing into each others' eyes at sunset on Pensacola Bay. Smiling brightly with family members.
They are the last pictures before the 22-year-old bride's death.
They are beautiful pictures that bring only anguish, heartache and tears for what might have been.
For Lori's family, the only solace has been that the drunken driver who killed her six hours after her wedding on Sept. 23, 2000, is serving a prison sentence.
But now, Esther Faith Holman, 51, of Mary Esther is petitioning the Florida Board of Executive Clemency for commutation of her sentence of 14 years and seven months. The board will consider the case Thursday in Tallahassee.
The newlywed Dwelles were on U.S. 98 in Okaloosa County, headed to Destin for their honeymoon, when Holman's red Jaguar convertible rear-ended their Ford Explorer.
Holman was speeding as fast as 90 mph. Her blood alcohol content was more three times the legal limit at .225.
The Explorer skidded and flipped three times. The seat belts in the Explorer also failed, and Lori was partially ejected from the vehicle and Scott was thrown out.
Lori hit her head on the pavement and died immediately. Scott spent several days in the hospital from his injuries.
In August 2001, Holman pleaded no contest to DUI manslaughter and DUI with serious bodily injury. She is serving her sentence at the Gadsden Correctional Institution in Quincy.
Why is Holman asking for clemency? Basically that her mother is elderly and in failing health.
Holman is hoping that the Clemency Board will move up her release date, currently set for Aug. 29, 2014.The first question that should be raised by The Clemency board is what is the view of Scott Dwelle and Lori's parents in regards to Ms. Holman's petition?
"I guess she's hoping for the best and expecting the worst," said her sister, Patricia Franchi of Fort Walton Beach.
Ruth Brunn, 88, Holman's mother and another Fort Walton Beach resident, said her daughter wants to come home to take care of her.
Brunn said she can hardly see, and she has arthritis and osteoporosis, among other ailments.
"My health is deteriorating very rapidly," she said.
Franchi said her sister is genuinely sorry.
"She feels horrible about it," Franchi said. "She's going to have to live with it the rest of her life. I know she wants to change things ... to make up for all this badness that's come out of this."
But Lori Dwelle's family is adamantly opposed to Holman's release.They are opposed to clemency. The family/victims that suffered the most don't want to see Holman out of jail. That should be all the Clemency board has to hear in giving a thumbs down to the petition.
Weekley said he thought he had heard the last of Holman after her appeal was denied last year.
"We were assured that was it," he said. "She would go away."
Weekley and his wife, Delilah, and their son, Robbie, and his wife plan to attend the clemency hearing, along with Scott Dwelle and his parents.
"She needs to continue to be held accountable for what she's done," Dwelle said. "The law says she should serve 85 percent of her sentence, and that's what she needs to serve."
The Weekleys said they aren't opposing Holman's release to be vindictive.
"We don't want anyone else to have to go through what we have gone through," said Delilah Weekley, 53. "I am not so sure she has been rehabilitated.
"She has written letters. In a roundabout way, she has apologized. She doesn't seem legitimate. She doesn't seem remorseful."
If the Weekly's opposition doesn't persuade you, then there is the lack of remorse from Holman.
Bartenders at the Dock o' the Bay on Okaloosa Island told investigators Holman arrived there about 2 p.m. and stayed until just before the 11:45 p.m. accident.No acceptance just excuses for her actions. To hell with you Esther Faith Holman and your petition. You need to pay for the life you have destroyed and those you forever changed.
But Holman disputed that in a deposition filed as part of a civil suit against Ford Motor Co. because of the seat belt failure. That suit was settled with confidential terms, said Virginia Buchanan, the plaintiff's attorney.
Holman said she left work at about 3:30 p.m. to meet her sister and her sister's then-boyfriend, Eric Larsen, at Harbor Docks.
They left there because the restaurant wasn't serving sushi and went to Lucky Snapper, then on to Dock o' the Bay.
Holman said she arrived at Dock o' the Bay 30 to 45 minutes before sunset. She said her sister and Larsen ordered her first drink -- a vodka and soda.
"Well, the second round that my sister and Eric ordered was spilled," she said. "So, I know another round was ordered after that. So, I can safely say that I probably had four or five mixed drinks that evening."
Holman said she didn't think she had been drinking heavily.
"Well, if I had been there four hours that evening, and I had four drinks, that works out to be about one an hour," she said. "And considering that I spent the majority of the evening outside engaged in heavy conversation, to me that doesn't seem excessive."
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