LAKELAND, Fla. (Fox 35 WOFL) - A Polk County man has been charged with DUI manslaughter for the death of his father, according to officials.
Ronald "Ronnie" Rice Jr. has been charged with DUI Manslaughter for the death of his father, Ronald Rice Sr., who recently succumbed to injuries obtained from a crash on January 21, 2017.
On the morning of January 21st, Ronnie's neighbors witnessed Rice Jr. operating his gray 2000 Ford Mustang recklessly in the yard of his private residence in Lakeland.
Based upon the speech and dexterity of Rice Jr., it appeared that he was impaired by drugs and/or alcohol when driving and exiting the vehicle.
Rice Jr. stated multiple times, "Come on pops, get out of the car." However, Ronald Rice Sr. was not in the car, as multiple witnesses stated that they observed a dark object under the Mustang. The object appeared to be pinned between the undercarriage of the vehicle and the roadway.
The witnesses soon saw the object come out from under the vehicle and tumble to his final rest. Once they could identify the object as Ronald Rice Sr., the witnesses rushed to his aid.
Ronald Rice Jr. fled the scene in his vehicle. A short while later, he arrived at the home of his friends, who saw Rice Jr. seated in the driver's seat. Upon arrival, Rice's vehicle came into contact with a wooden fence and he parked in a highly unusual manner, diagonally across the front easement area of the home.
His friends have stated that Rice Jr. was severely impaired upon arrival. He nearly fell out of his vehicle when exiting, had poor speech pattern, had trouble walking and standing, and was highly emotional. He went on to repeatedly state that he was in big trouble because he had "screwed up" and needed to go check on his father.
Ronald Rice Jr. was eventually located by deputies and transported to the Polk County Sheriff's Office Southwest District substation for interviewing.
During Rice's first interaction with law enforcement, he was observed to be highly impaired. This continued for the next couple of hours of the investigation and the subsequent interview.
During this interview, Rice Jr. said that he was the owner of the vehicle and the only person, besides his father, who was allowed to drive it. He even admitted to driving immediately before this incident and then arriving at a friend's house. Rice was unwilling or unable to recall any details of the actual incident.
Ronald Rice Sr. was seriously injured from the crash and received multiple broken bones, including a fractured pelvis. Rice Sr. also went into cardiac arrest as a result of the crash. He was on a ventilator at the Lakeland Regional Hospital until he finally passed on March 27th.
Rice Jr. was booked into Polk County Jail for a DUI before his father's passing, but given the recent events, has also been charged for DUI Manslaughter on April 4th.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd commented on this tragic incident, saying that "the next time you get behind the wheel of a car, think about how your actions can forever change not just one person's life, but an entire family. Please do not drive drunk or impaired. It's not worth all of the pain and sorrow that can result from it."