Former pro wrestler Tammy Sytch, widely regarded as the WWE’s original diva, was sentenced Monday to more than 17 years in prison in a DUI crash that left a 75-year-old Florida man dead.
The WWE Hall of Famer, whose legal name is Tamara Lynn Sytch, pleaded no contest in August to driving under the influence and causing death, along with seven other DUI-related charges, according to Volusia County, Fla., court records obtained by The Times.
A judge sentenced Sytch, 50, to 17 years and 6 months in state prison, court records said. After her release, she will serve an additional eight years on probation.
Prosecutors alleged that Sytch was under the influence of drugs and alcohol while driving through Ormond Beach, Fla., on March 25, 2022. As she drove at a high speed, they said, she rear-ended the vehicle of Julian LaFrancis Lasseter, who was stopped at a red light. The crash sent his vehicle into another car in front of him.
Lasseter, 75, of Daytona Beach, was pronounced dead at the scene, while the driver and three passengers of another vehicle were treated for minor injuries, prosecutors said.
Sytch’s blood alcohol level an hour after the crash was between .32 and .34, which is more than four times the legal limit, prosecutors said. Authorities also found an unsealed bottle of vodka in her car, as well as cannabis in her system.
“The defendant’s history of drinking and driving is horrendous. She was Death On Wheels,” Florida State Atty. R.J. Larizza said in a statement shared Monday. “It was only a matter of time before her drunk driving killed an innocent and unsuspecting individual.”
The former wrestler had been arrested multiple times previously on suspicion of driving under the influence in Pennsylvania, where her driver‘s license had been suspended. She didn’t have a Florida driver’s license.
She also had faced a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Lasseter’s estate. However, the estate withdrew its suit in September, after Sytch pleaded no contest. The complaint was dismissed with prejudice, which means it cannot be refiled.
To make extra money, Sytch began wrestling in the early 1990s with her then-boyfriend and fellow wrestler Chris Candido. She decided to leave behind a full-ride academic scholarship to the University of Miami to perform full time in the ring, according to WrestleView.com.
She leaned into her academic background, fashioning herself as a yuppie villain, wearing power suits and professing her admiration for Hillary Clinton, according to the WWE. Sytch served as Candido’s manager. Her original narrative as a part of Smokey Mountain Wrestling included her threatening to sue the brand for allegedly discriminating against women by denying them prominent positions.
In 1994, she joined what was then known as the World Wrestling Federation. Performing as Sunny, a smug fitness fanatic, she found mainstream success, transitioning from a villain into a fan favorite, WWE said. She is widely known as one of the first WWE divas. Though the term was not yet used at the time, her diva mold of a muscular physique clad in bikini-style outfits continues as a major part of the brand’s promotion.
She was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.