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Mount Dora Man Finally Arrested for Involvement in Deadly Car Crash on Christmas Eve

By Orlando Personal Injury Attorney on August 28, 2020

A months-long manhunt came to a conclusion on Thursday, August 27th, 2020, after the Leesburg Police Department arrested a 33-year-old man whom they believe caused a tragic fatal car accident last Christmas Eve which claimed the lives of three individuals.

After eluding local and state authorities in the Lake County area for nearly 9 months, investigators caught up with 33-year-old Zachery Waldo, a Mount Dora resident whose poor decisions resulted in the deaths of 3 innocent victims. According to the original crash reports from December 24th, 2019, it was approximately 8:30 p.m. when Waldo was driving his 2019 black Dodge Ram eastbound on State Road 44 in the direction of Dozier Court. It was at the same time that the Smith family consisting of 44-year-old Christopher Smith, 35-year-old Jessica Smith, 13-year-old Hailey Smith, and 11-year-old Hunter Smith were traveling in their 2018 Toyota westbound along the same highway, also towards Dozier Court in the city of Leesburg. As the Eustis residents attempted to maneuver a left turn onto Dozier Court, Waldo’s truck slammed into the passenger side of the Toyota in the middle of the intersection.

Emergency response teams with the Leesburg Police Department, as well as troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol immediately rushed to the scene of the crash. Upon their arrival, it was discovered that Christopher & Jessica Smith had already passed away from their injuries. Both of the children were also severely injured in the accident and were transported by first responders to Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando. Due to the nature of her catastrophic injuries, thirteen-year-old Hailey Smith was sadly unable to recover and she died on Christmas Day. Eleven-year-old Hunter Smith was the sole survivor of this heartbreaking collision.

Lake County officials stated that Zachery Waldo and his passenger, 33-year-old Tavares resident Kevin Cunningham, were taken to Ocala Regional Medical Center for medical treatment. However, before investigators had a chance to question either man in the incident, Mr. Waldo left the hospital and went on the run. Back at the crash site, traffic homicide investigators recovered a stolen loaded handgun, drugs, and opened beer bottles within the cab of his 2019 black Dodge Ram. After further investigations, medical tests determined that Mr. Waldo was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs at the time of the crash, and was driving 84 MPH at the time of impact – nearly 60 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.

The U.S. Marshal’s Task Force and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office arrested Zachery Waldo Wednesday evening near Grand Island on the charges of DUI manslaughter, possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, possession of marijuana with intent to sell and possession of drug paraphernalia.


James O. Cunningham

James O. CunninghamSince 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.

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