Joey Hill Renn Jr., 21, a resident of Palm Coast, was charged on Tuesday with vehicular homicide, a second degree felony, and two misdemeanor charges in the motorcycle-crash death of 14-year-old Logan Goodman last January in Palm Coast’s Woodlands.
Goodman was a student at Indian Trails Middle School, and according to his obituary had been preceded in death by two siblings, a brother and a sister. For the local school district, Goodman’s death was the fifth fatality in less than four years involving a school-age child in a Palm Coast traffic crash.
The crash took place at 7:30 p.m. on January 23 on Blare Castle Drive. Cpl. T.R. Williams, the traffic homicide investigator with the Florida Highway Patrol who investigated the crash, located surveillance video from that night and partly retraced the moments leading up to the crash from that footage, according to Renn’s arrest report.
Renn, 20 at the time, was riding a a 2008 Suzuki GSXR 750, with Goodman as his passenger. Goodman was not wearing a helmet. A caller to 911 immediately after the crash reported that they were going 100 mph.
Williams analyzed the surveillance footage after measuring a distance between two points, and used a stopwatch. He reported: “The distance between the two points was 112.41 feet. Using a stopwatch, I recorded the time it took [Renn] to travel between the two points. It took an average of 0.70 seconds for [Renn] to travel the 112.41 feet. [Renn] would have been traveling 109.53 miles per hour to travel 112.41 feet in 0.70 seconds.” He was traveling in a 30 mph zone.
The investigator also estimated that had Renn taken one second to travel that distance, he would have been going 76.67 miles an hour. In other words, even granting a difference in time, the speed at which he was traveling still made it reckless under Florida law–a legal distinction that led to the two additional charges of reckless driving with property damage, and since a death was involved, in the felony charge.Video footage also showed Renn failing to stop at two stop signs on Blare Castle–once at the stop sign when he was traveling west, and once at the eastbound sign, when he was traveling toward the area of the collision. On that stretch, Renn “exceeded the critical speed of the curve and failed to negotiate the curve to the right,” the report states. The motorcycle collided with a mailbox, “tumbled and collided with a powerpole,” causing both Renn and Goodman to be thrown into the front yard at 52 Blare Castle Drive–almost across the street from where Goodman lived. Renn was critically injured in the crash.
The Woodlands are among Palm Coast’s older neighborhoods, and like many of its neighborhoods, are poorly lit at night.
Goodman had lived in the city only a short while, his obituary stated, giving glimpses into his character: “Logan had recently started mowing lawns and with his first taste of some cash in his pocket, he bought everyone but himself a little gift.”
Renn, who has a military background, is a 2017 graduate of Flagler Palm Coast High School. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the second-degree felony charge, though in such cases individuals with no criminal history and no findings of substance usage at the time of a crash almost never face such steep punishment. But vehicular homicides carries a mandatory minimum of nine and a half years in prison, absent a judge’s decision to apply a “downward departure” in the sentence–also not an uncommon outcome, depending on the defendant’s profile. The State Attorney’s Office and the defense could also negotiate a plea agreement, assuming the victim’s family is amenable. Renn had his first appearance before a judge only this morning. He hasn’t been arraigned yet, so no plea has been entered.
Williams placed Renn under arrest just before 5 p.m. Tuesday outside of Renn’s house. He was booked at the Flagler County jail on $27,000 bond, which he posted. Renn was released from jail early this afternoon.
According to court documents, Renn is being defended by Palm Coast attorney Charles Esposito, who just five months ago was publicly reprimanded by the Florida Supreme Court over misconduct toward a client, and ordered to attend the Florida Bar Ethics School. It was Esposito’s third disciplinary issue with the Florida Bar in eight years. The Supreme Court also suspended Esposito for a month in 2014 over clients’ complaints. And in 2012, following a complaint that started the pattern, the high court said Esposito “demeaned the legal profession,” publicly reprimanded him and placed him on six months’ probation.