Family of slain Orange County officer speaks out for first time, demands justice

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Nancy Grassi said the pain of losing her husband of 31 years is something she still can’t wrap her head around.


Thursday marked exactly two years and one month since Orange County Field Service Officer David Grassi died after Neil Demetree slammed into his patrol car.

“It’s still hard to believe that when I kissed him goodnight in a few hours I’d be told he’s gone. I still can’t get over that,” said Nancy Grassi.

It was around 2:30 a.m. on December 11, 2021 when she first heard the knock on her door.

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She thought her husband forgot his keys but it was instead an Orange County lieutenant informing her that her husband had been in an accident.

David Grassi was helping with lane closures for the I-4 express lanes by stopping traffic from passing into that lane while road crews worked.

According to the arrest report, Demetree told detectives he was coming home from a gentleman’s club where he had only had three beers.

That report shows when Demetree was asked about the crash, he said, “it shouldn’t have happened, but it did.” And when asked about whether he fell asleep at the wheel -- he denied, explaining “I faded into the lane. I put on my breaks. I tried to go around him.”

“I cannot believe it. I mean, how do you miss a construction site? And you miss lights flashing and cones?” said Nancy Grassi.

Demetree wasn’t charged for the crime until nine months later, in August 2022.

Channel 9 caught up with him outside of the Orange County jail right after he bonded out.

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That blood alcohol level was .08 according to the original arrest report.

But Demetree’s lawyer, Stuart Hyman, told Channel 9 over the phone that a toxicology report by the state found Demetree’s blood alcohol level was below the legal limit at .04.

“He still has a driver’s license. He killed somebody driving. And it’s been two years. And he’s out there,” said his daughter, Jen Schlientz.

The case itself has been tied up in court.

The trial date has been pushed back multiple times as it’s now set for early April.

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“At this point, it’s almost a mockery of our judicial system,” said Schlientz.

For them, that’s been delaying their closure and has forced them to continue to relive the loss.

“I want him to get the full term. The full sentence. And I want him to look me in the eyes and apologize to me,” said Nancy Grassi.

The Grassi family remembers David as a hard-working family man who left a positive impact on all of them.

He always did the right thing,” said Schlientz.

Demetree has a status hearing next week.

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