NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. — A Nassau County man who was found guilty of DUI manslaughter in a 2018 crash that killed a family of three will serve 60 years in prison, a judge ruled Monday.
The victims' family members gasped and began weeping in court when Shawn Blitchington's sentence was read. He is guilty of three counts of DUI manslaughter, leaving the scene of a crash involving death and driving on a permanently revoked driver's license.
Blitchington was driving a Ford F-250 south in a northbound lane of U.S. 301 in Bryceville when he caused a head-on crash with a Honda Civic just after 11 p.m. on July 21, 2018. He killed Ryan Kennedy, Bailey McKnight and their unborn son.
"When you decided of your own free will to drink alcohol in excess, you became a force of destruction ... for anyone unlucky enough to cross your path," Circuit Judge James Daniel told Blitchington in court. "The ripple effect of your decision will last forever for those who loved (the victims)."
Several victim impact statements were also read during the sentencing hearing.
Kennedy's father said his son died on his own birthday.
"When I learned my son, Ryan, had been killed in a wreck, the world stopped turning for me," the state attorney's office read from a prepared victim impact statement. "I could not believe this was even possible because it was his birthday. We drove to the scene and my wife helped FHP identify him from his tattoo on his arm they both shared. Just living is painful. As I watch Ryan's friends get married and raise their children, I am reminded of the future our family lost."
Witnesses attempted to stop Blitchington from leaving the scene, according to authorities. Deputies found him hiding in the grass not far from the crash after five hours. He reportedly denied being the driver and had a strong odor of alcohol and bloodshot, watery eyes.
Daniel said Blitchington is a danger to the community and has had "chance after chance after chance" to go to rehab.
Blitchington had been previously convicted of several driving offenses, including DUI, and was driving on a permanently revoked license, according to the state attorney's office.
"Your remorse ... was nowhere in sight" the night of the accident, Daniel said to Blitchington. "Your instinct was self-preservation alone."
The earliest Blitchington could be released is 51 years, when he is 95 years old.