Justice for Deborah Peterson
By Marie Carrie
On the night of Aug. 21, 2008, Mrs. Martha Wright of Collier City lost her only child in a drunk driving accident. Deborah Peterson, age 44, was traveling from Broward County to her home in Boca Raton when her life was tragically taken. The driver of the other vehicle was Daniela Torres.
Torres was traveling northbound on I-95 between 75-85 mph. She quickly changed lanes and rear-ended the car Peterson was traveling in. The; driver of the car, James Carr, the front passenger, Deborah Peterson; and the rear passenger, James Braggs were all thrown from the vehicle as it flipped over three times.
Peterson was pronounced dead on the scene. Carr died later at the hospital and Mr. Braggs sustained serious, but not life-threatening injuries.”I saw two people get killed right in front of me,” said Braggs who currently suffers from neck and back pain, muscle spasms and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The officers on the scene disagreed as to the signs of physical impairment exhibited by Torres. Two of the officers stated there were no signs of intoxication. One officer, Eula Brown, noted the opposite. As a result, the driver was not ordered to take a blood alcohol level (BAL) test. However, Torres consented to do so anyway, and the Boca Raton Medic was called to take the sample.
On the night of the accident, Torres was held overnight and then released. No charges were filed against her at that time. However, six months later, she was ordered to turn herself in, when results from the BAL test proved she was in fact intoxicated. Her blood alcohol content was .155g percent weight volume of ethyl alcohol, nearly twice the legal limit.
On Feb. 24, 2009, Daniela Torres was booked and charged with two counts of DUI manslaughter and one count of DUI causing injury to person or property. Torres was released on $50,000 bond with the conditions that she abstain from alcohol, submit to random testing and restrict her movements to Broward, Palm Beach and Martin counties. Ironically, she was never ordered to surrender her passport, despite her international connections.
On Aug. 20, 2012, Torres failed to report for drug testing. In addition, on Aug. 21 and 28 she failed to report by phone to the Office of Pre-Trial Services, the division responsible for monitoring her release. Consequently, on August 30th, state attorney Laurie Burkhart obtained an arrest warrant for Torres and filed a motion to have her bond revoked.
Upon investigation, law enforcement officers discovered that on Aug. 15, 2012, Daniela Torres, faced with the possibility of 20 years in prison for drunk driving, flew out of the country from Miami to Brazil. Although she booked a return flight for Aug. 19, records show that she never boarded the plane.
The family of Deborah Peterson is seeking justice and demanding that Torres be extradited back to Palm Beach County; whereby she can stand trial and face the consequences of her actions that resulted in the deaths of two individuals and severe injury to a third.
To this end, a meeting was held on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at McNair Park in Collier City, Pompano Beach. In attendance were members of Deborah Peterson’s immediate family and various members of the community. The purpose of the meeting was total support for a community-based effort to implore public officials and law enforcement officers to bring Daniela Torres to justice.
A walk to raise awareness is being planned for Collier City. According to Walter Hunter, president of the Northwest Pompano Beach Civic Association and facilitator of Saturday’s meeting, “We want the street covered with people. Because people bring change.” The success of this event will be followed by another walk in Palm Beach County. Local politicians and community leaders are being invited to participate.
In regards to her five-year journey to get justice for her daughter, Mrs. Wright simply states, “ I want justice to prevail and I won’t give up.”
Community leader Hunter declares, “This is the beginning, not the end but the beginning.”