Lake Co. man found guilty in hit-and-run death gets 8 years in prison



LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - A Lake County man convicted of hitting and killing a man and his dog, and then leaving them to die by a Mount Plymouth home will spend the next eight years in prison.

Earlier this month, Steven Pegues was found guilty of hitting Stephen Toner and his dog in in 2010.

Emotions ran high as family members of Toner urged Lake County Judge Don Briggs to give Pegues the maximum sentence of 30 years.

“There is a knock at the door and someone yelling, 'Your brother, he's dead,’” said Toner’s brother, John Toner. “He's crumpled up. His dog, he was run over, too. He was alive but dying. He was crying and shaking. I'm holding onto him, while I'm looking into the dead face of my brother."

Pegues' mother pleaded for mercy for the sake of his two young daughters.

“This has got to be one of a mother's worst nightmares,” she said.

“This is why people drive off,” said Toner’s daughter, Laura Toner Grimsich. “They figure they're going to get away with it, and this is why it is a recurring problem. The minimum sentence for leaving the scene of a crash involving death is only 23 months.”

During the trial, Pegues told the jury that investigators pounded it into his head that he hit a man, and he said they almost had him believing it.

"One of the officers said, 'You need to admit this. The truth will set you free.' I said, 'No sir that is someone's life. I can't accept the fact that I'm going to hit someone and leave them there,'" said Pegues.

Pegues was found guilty of hitting and killing Toner, 68, outside Toner's home, backing up to see what he'd done and then driving off.

Pegues's former girlfriend reported him to police after seeing him look at dents in his car, authorities said.

He testified that when investigators talked to him, he was taking Oxycodone and another medication that a doctor prescribed to him.

"They put in my mind that I hit someone. They had me believing, they actually had me doubting myself," he said.

Pegues said he was not on Oxycodone while driving the night of the crash. He watched with no expression as prosecutors played a recording of a conversation he had with his mother while in jail.

"Yeah, I might have been messed up that night.  Regardless of what I was on, it was my birthday weekend. If it wasn't nothing else, it would have been alcohol, which would have been worse. You know?" Pegues said in the recording.

"Yeah," his mother replied.

The defense argued that investigators did not have physical evidence to tie Pegues' truck to the crash scene, however the jury did not agree.