CLAY COUNTY, Fla. — Gavin Conroy was buried Monday, four months after he suffered catastrophic burns in a fiery Clay County car crash.
On Tuesday, prosecutors filed upgraded charges against the man accused in his death. Clifford Ringer, 40, now faces a charge of vehicular homicide, a second-degree felony that carries a punishment of up to 15 years in prison if he is convicted. It replaces a charge of driving on a suspended license in an accident that caused serious bodily injury or death, a third-degree felony punishable by 5 years.
Ringer still faces an additional charge of driving on a suspended license for a third (or more) time(s), a third-degree felony.
“1 day after my precious child was laid to rest, charges have been upgraded!” Conroy’s mother, Donna, posted a Facebook message. “2nd degree felony vehicular manslaughter! Gavin’s life is worth so much more than this but at least this is a step in the right direction.”
According to investigators, Conroy’s vehicle was rear-ended by Ringer’s truck on Wells Road in Orange Park, causing the fuel tank to rupture and ignite. Though severely burned, Conroy did not die immediately, spending months in a hospital burn unit in Gainesville, where he underwent 27 surgeries. His injuries eventually required doctors to amputate both of his legs and several fingers.
Gavin’s family pushed investigators and prosecutors to ramp up charges against Ringer, who has a long history of traffic infractions. As First Coast News reported, court records show Ringer has multiple DUI convictions. According to police reports, he was also found passed out behind the wheel of his car – twice -- in cases that did not end up being prosecuted as DUIs.
Ringer's driving record includes dozens of charges related to reckless driving and driving on a suspended license -- his license was suspended at the time of the April crash – and his issues continued even after the crash. In July, Ringer was ticketed for running a red light.
After First Coast News’ reported on the July ticket and his more than 40 prior traffic violations, a judge revoked Ringer’s bond, calling him “a danger to the community.” He later set bond at $260,000, but Ringer remains in jail.
Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Dylan Bryan said charge upgrade was “news to us.” FHP began reinvestigating the case as a traffic homicide after Conroy’s death, but Bryan said “that investigation is ongoing.”
“All of us were shocked to hear additional charges were implemented,” he said. First Coast News reached out to the State Attorney’s Office for comment on the new charge.
Although Bryan was unaware of the new charges, he said he has followed the case closely. “I feel like I’m personally involved with this since I was on the scene of the accident,” Bryan said.
“This is one of those cases that stick with you in your career. This is gonna be one of them.”