Crime

Gulfport Realtor who drove off after hitting woman decides against fighting DUI

Diane Carpenter
Diane Carpenter File

A DUI conviction will stand against Realtor Diane Carpenter, who was charged with the misdemeanor after she hit and seriously injured an elderly pedestrian in Gulfport, drove off and got pulled over in Long Beach for driving under the influence.

Carpenter had appealed municipal court convictions in both cases to County Court. Her attorney, Don Rafferty, agreed Wednesday before Judge Robin Midcalf to send the DUI case back to Long Beach, essentially reinstating the conviction. Carpenter was not in court.

In April, Carpenter pleaded no contest in County Court to the misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene in Gulfport, receiving a suspended sentence and orders to undergo a drug and alcohol assessment.

She was charged with the crimes in separate jurisdictions after hitting Evelyn Willhoite, 84, on the night of March 26, 2015, while Willhoite stood beside the westbound lanes of U.S. 90.

Willhoite, a part-time resident of a nearby beachfront condominium, was hospitalized for four weeks, followed by six weeks of outpatient treatment, according to prosecutor Maxine Conway. The skin was peeled from Willhoite’s right foot and she had to have a titanium plate to hold together her ankle. The civil lawsuit says she suffered fractures in both legs.

Willhoite is seeking compensation for her injuries and punitive damages in a civil lawsuit she filed in Harrison County Circuit Court against Carpenter and Treasure Bay Casino.

A witness subpoenaed for pretrial testimony in the civil case said he had been with Carpenter before the accident at a real estate seminar at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. The evening wound down at Treasure Bay, where he said he offered to give her a ride home.

Carpenter testified she had two vodka and sodas, plus a small cup of wine, through the course of the evening.

When she was stopped in Long Beach, she admitted in civil testimony she refused an officer's request to walk a straight line. Officers subpoenaed her for a blood-alcohol test. Two hours later, evidence shows, she tested .171, a little more than twice the legal limit.

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99

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