Man takes plea deal in 2015 boating death off Matheson Hammock

MIAMI (WSVN) - One of two people charged in the 2015 boating death of a woman off Matheson Hammock has accepted a plea deal in the case.

Boat captain and nightclub owner Russell Bruce stood in a Miami courtroom, Friday, as he listened to the terms of the plea deal. The presiding judge sentenced him to four years of probation after he pleaded no contest to a manslaughter charge in the Memorial Day weekend tragedy.

According to investigators, on May 24, 2015, Lauren Jenee Lamar was on Bruce’s 30-foot vessel with the captain and another woman, identified as Alicia Bartolotta, as they headed back to shore after a night of partying. When the boat arrived at Matheson Hammock Marina that night, Lamar was not on board.

Search crews located her body on the water, close to the marina, 36 hours later. She was 26 years old.

Lauren Jenee Lamar

Bruce and the other woman on board were charged with manslaughter for failure to act. They were accused of waiting more than 30 minutes to report Lamar missing.

Bruce told police he thought the victim was sleeping in a below-deck cabin, but detectives said the small cabin was located in the boat’s bow, within view of the person steering the vessel.

“It was a very tragic day,” said Bruce on Friday. “I am sorry for their loss and my condolences to the family.”

Lamar’s mother, Rebecca Lamar, said the relatively light sentence is insufficient. “That boat was not that long. It was not that big. It was not like it was a yacht,” she said, “so, for you to say you didn’t know that the person wasn’t on the boat anymore, there’s something wrong with that whole picture.”

The victim’s father, Anthony Lamar, said this is not the resolution they wanted. “It wasn’t right. I just want justice for my daughter,” he said.

But Bruce’s attorney said the outcome is just. “This was the state’s offer. It’s a fair offer. It’s not an easy case,” said Dave Raben.

Not so, said Scott Leeds, the Lamars’ attorney. “The family absolutely does not feel that it is just,” he said.

This is why the victims’ parents have filed a civil suit against Bruce. They said their fight for justice is not over.

“We know justice will prevail, because God is in control, and He is the higher judge,” said Rebecca.

The manslaughter charge against Bartolotta has not yet been resolved, but that case could also end in a plea deal.

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