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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Gainesville man arrested for killing high school student in car crash, injuring victim’s mother

Declan Lott-Kelley was speeding 88 miles per hour when he crashed into the Cheves’ car

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A Gainesville man was arrested Wednesday for killing an 18-year-old Gainesville High School student while driving drunk in June. 

Declan Lott-Kelley, 23, was charged with driving with a suspended license, the death of Audrey Cheves and causing serious bodily injury to her mother, Melissa, all while driving under the influence, a Gainesville Police Department arrest warrant read. 

Kasey Rayburn, a 41-year-old Hawthorne resident and Audrey’s aunt, is hopeful the impending lawsuit may give some sense of closure to her family.

“We’re never going to be at peace with this,” Rayburn said. “We lost a huge part of our life.”

Lott-Kelley was booked at the Alachua County Jail Wednesday with a $300,000 bond, said Alachua County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Kaley Behl. 

Melissa is now seeking damages of $30,000 for the death of Audrey including her medical and funeral expenses, her own injuries and medical expenses suffered from the car crash, and damages to her car, according to court records. 

On June 5, Lott-Kelley was speeding at 88 miles per hour east from the 1900 block of Northwest 39th Avenue in a 2015 jeep when he crashed into the Cheves’ Toyota Sedan, a GPD press release read. The speed limit on the road was 45 miles per hour. The Cheves’ were making a right turn onto Northwest 39th Avenue leaving the north parking lot of Publix when the crash occurred.

The mother and daughter were freed from their car by Gainesville Fire Rescue. Audrey was pronounced dead at the scene, and Melissa was sent to UF Shands Hopital’s intensive care unit for three weeks.

Melissa was in a coma for about a week-and-a-half following the car crash, Rayburn said.

“He needs to learn his lesson,” Rayburn said. “He needs to pay for the consequences. Now he has taken someone’s life and you cannot get that back.”

Lott-Kelley was transported to UF Shands Hospital with head injuries. His blood alcohol level was 2.42g/100 mL, which was over the legal limit of .8g/100mL, the arrest report read. A traffic homicide investigation was started by GPD, but no charges or citations were filed at the time. 

The six-month investigation looked into Lott-Kelley’s blood alcohol levels and the autopsy report, GPD spokesperson Graham Glover wrote. Although police knew who the suspect was since the incident, an arrest wasn’t made until the investigation was fully completed, which Glover wrote is standard practice. 

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Lott-Kelley has several traffic violations including a hit-and-run accident while under the influence in 2015, court records read. He has since accumulated traffic violations for careless driving in 2016 and 2020. His license was suspended on Feb. 1. 

He’s due in court on Jan. 6, according to court records.

Those close to the Cheves' family are still feeling the weight of Audrey’s loss.

Cheyanne Faulk, a 22-year-old Waldo resident and close family friend, said it’s disheartening to see that it took six months to put Lott-Kelley behind bars for the murder of someone she considered to be a sister.

“Although I am disappointed with how long it took, I am happy he is no longer driving recklessly,” Faulk said. 

Contact Isabella Douglas at Follow her on Twitter @Ad_Scribendum.

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Isabella Douglas

Isabella Douglas is a fourth-year journalism major and the Fall 2023 editor-in-chief for The Alligator. She has previously worked as the digital managing editor, metro editor, criminal justice reporter and as a news assistant. When she isn't reporting, she can be found reorganizing her bookshelf and adding books to her ever-growing TBR. 

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