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A year after sister's death in DUI crash, sibling says battle for justice will continue in civil court

·4 min read

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A year after losing her sister, the emotions are still raw for Makita Lucas.

Her personal journey since getting the phone call on June 20, 2021, telling her about the death of her sister, has included battling investigators and prosecutors and taking in three of her sibling's children.

Now the 36-year-old Palm Bay woman is focused on taking the battle further, one year after the DUI crash-related death of her sister and weeks after watching the woman convicted for driving under the influence in that crash be handcuffed in court and led to jail.

Makita Lucas, left, sister of crash victim Passion Lucas, testifies during a sentencing hearing June 3, 2022, for Suzanna Norris. At right is Brevard County Judge Judy Atkin.
Makita Lucas, left, sister of crash victim Passion Lucas, testifies during a sentencing hearing June 3, 2022, for Suzanna Norris. At right is Brevard County Judge Judy Atkin.

She's asking Florida's Attorney General Ashley Moody to review actions by Cocoa police and the Brevard state attorney's office in the case and pursuing a civil lawsuit filed in May.

"I'm not stopping," said Makita Lucas, a mother of three who took to social media last year to voice her frustration with the lack of progress in the Cocoa police investigation into her sister's case.

"I do not want what happened to us to happen to anyone else. We just have to keep pushing."

Makita Lucas, in blue, stands with the children of Passion Lucas after court hearing on March 16, 2021.
Makita Lucas, in blue, stands with the children of Passion Lucas after court hearing on March 16, 2021.

Driver sentenced in DUI crash: Cocoa nonprofit founder sentenced to up to six months in jail in DUI crash that killed mother of six

'We have to have justice for Passion': Cocoa woman struggles to find accountability in the summertime traffic death of her sister

Passion Lucas, a 37-year-old mother of six, was walking to a rehab center on a darkened Cocoa road when she was struck by a car driven by Suzanna Norris, 50, then the head of a horse farm and charity. Norris admitted to drinking and driving, with tests showing a blood alcohol at twice the legal limit.

She was sentenced to six months in the Brevard County Jail, of which three months could be spent in residential treatment. That would be followed by 11 months and 25 days of supervised probation. As part of the sentence, Norris will perform 50 hours of community service, pay a $1,000 fine, and pay $3,007.55 to cover the cost of investigation.

The case generated widespread interest as Makita Lucas used social media to criticize an investigation that had several miscues. Those criticisms were compounded by the State Attorney's Office's decision not to pursue a more serious DUI manslaughter charge in the case because the office said it likely could not get a conviction on that charge. Norris, whose phone records from the morning of the crash were withheld by the state attorney's office, was charged with a second-degree DUI instead.

Norris, a mother of three daughters ages 19, 13 and 10, is a horse trainer and founder of the nonprofit organization Hidden Acres Rescue for Thoroughbreds in Cocoa. The organization said she no longer is a part of the group.

Suzanna Norris, in the equestrian boots and wearing shades, stands before Makita Lucas, sister of Passion Lucas, in a lavender shirt. Several of Passion's children were also present at the equestrian event along with protesters in February 2022.
Suzanna Norris, in the equestrian boots and wearing shades, stands before Makita Lucas, sister of Passion Lucas, in a lavender shirt. Several of Passion's children were also present at the equestrian event along with protesters in February 2022.

The Lucas family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in May seeking damages from Norris. The case will be heard in Brevard County and contends that Lucas’ death was caused by ‘wrongful acts’ carried out by Norris, who was driving her vehicle at twice the legal limit for blood alcohol.

Alan Landman, Norris’ private criminal defense attorney, said he will represent Norris in the civil case.

“(Norris) was driving the car, but she did not cause or contribute to her death. My client’s position is that she jumped, darted out, came out of nowhere,” Landman said.

Landman, who is working with a lawyer from Norris' insurance company, said several experts examined the details of the crash. The state attorney’s office also reenacted a crash scene using a secretary of one of the prosecutors, he said.

His client remains jailed at the Brevard County Jail Complex and is expected to serve at least 60 days behind bars, accounting for time already served while awaiting trial, Landman said.

He said he's arranged for a treatment center to take in Norris for the remaining 90 days of her sentence ordered by Brevard County Judge Judy Atkin during a June 3 sentencing hearing. A trial date has not been set in the civil case.

Makita Lucas, who met with prosecutors several times, said the agency seemed reluctant to file charges even before Cocoa's case file landed on their desks.

"It was more insulting as the case went on. That's why I'm calling the state attorney general's office, so they can review the prosecutor's actions in this case," Lucas said.

She said her sister's death has cratered her emotionally and created an insurmountable grief that still lingers.

"The children ask questions about their mother. It's like this happened yesterday for them," she said. "And it's hard. I got in my car the other day and was just boo-boo crying. It's so much."

On Monday, the anniversary of Passion's death, the family held a private memorial.

"We lit candles and released balloons," Makita Lucas said, adding that the year-long struggle is far from over.

"My message to the state attorney, to the investigators, is this...that we matter," she said. "We matter too."

J.D. Gallop is a Criminal Justice/Breaking News Reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Gallop at 321-917-4641 or jgallop@floridatoday.com. Twitter: @JDGallop.

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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: After Cocoa pedestrian killed in DUI crash, sister fights for justice