By Jimmie Davis, Jr.
The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office botched the case of Daniela G. Torres, who fled to her native Brazil to escape prosecution for a 2008 DUI crash that resulted in the deaths of Deborah Peterson and James Carr.
It all started after Torres left the All Star Sports Bar & Grill located at 2201 West Sample Road in Pompano Beach with a blood alcohol content nearly twice the level at which Florida drivers are presumed impaired.
Then beyond belief she got in her dad’s Saab and drove along Interstate 95 and slammed into the back of Carr’s sedan, causing it to flip.
“The way I have been treated by the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office is heartbreaking,” said Martha Wright [Peterson’s mother], during an interview at her home. “I received no respect whatsoever.”
The case has been shuffled around from prosecutor to prosecutor and is now being handled by Assistant State Attorney Laura Laurie. “I can’t make a comment at this time,” said Laurie. “I have an ethical obligation, because the case is still open.”
Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) Trooper Eula Brown told her superiors that she smelled alcohol coming from Torres – but it went on deaf ears.
“I smelled a moderate odor of alcohol coming from the defendant’s face,” said Brown in her deposition. “The defendant leaned on the car for support and seemed happy and giggly despite what had just occurred.”
What had just occurred was Torres had just killed Peterson and Carr – but there was a third passenger [Calvin Bagg] in the car that survived the horrible tragedy.
Torres admitted to Sgt. J.R. Wigfall, (FHP) that she had been drinking, and he states in his traffic homicide report, “Ms. Torres appeared to have stable balance,” Wigfall wrote. “I could not smell odor of an alcoholic beverage…”
Because Wigfall was the officer in charge, Torres wasn’t arrested. She remained free for six months, and surrendered to authorities who charged her with two counts of DUI Man-slaughter, one count of DUI causing or contributing to injury to person or property, and two counts of Vehicular Homicide.
She was given a bond with conditions of reporting to a Pre-trial Services Program for supervised release that entailed taking frequent drug tests.
“Torres failed to report to a supervised release by phone and failed to appear for a drug test on Aug. 20, 2012 as required by her bond,” said John J. Mac Veigh, Special Agent Federal Bureau of Investigation in the Federal Warrant against Torres. “It was learned that Torres boarded a plane from Miami to Brazil on Aug. 15, 2012, but did not board the return flight on Aug. 19, 2012.”
Wilton Edwards, a family friend of Peterson, wants to know why the State Attorney’s Office didn’t confiscate Torress passport.
Wright and Edwards both agree that if Torres’ passport had been taken away she wouldn’t have been able to flee the country. “Torres’ father purchased the ticket,” said Edwards. “He had knowledge of her leaving the country and this constitutes that he was harboring a fugitive.”
Former interim State Attorney Peter Antonnacci labeled the passport disaster “disgusting” and said he was working to figure out who “dropped the ball” in his office.
Wright wants justice and closure for the untimely death of her beloved daughter and Carr.
She’s been keeping her daughter’s death in the media and having marches, rallies and demonstrations at the Palm Beach County Courthouse and throughout the community at large.
There’s going to be a “Fighting for Justice – DUI Zero Tolerance” forum with guest speakers held at the E. Pat Larkins Community Center located at 520 Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard in Pompano Beach on June 14 at 5 p.m.
“What kind of parents are Beatrice and Milton Torres who let their daughter leave the United States, knowing she killed two people?” asked Wright. “This is not a place to commit a crime and then flee back to your native Brazil and hide.”