Courts

West Miami-Dade hit-and-run driver convicted, awaiting sentencing

 

Eleven-year-old Ashley Valdes’ death led to the creation of a Miami-Dade program that sends text alerts to residents about crime and traffic issues.

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Almost four years after a hit-and-run driver killed her 11-year-old daughter, Adonay Rosete will enter the holiday season with some semblance of closure.

That’s because a jury this month convicted the driver of two felonies in the death of 11-year-old Ashley Nicole Valdes, who was struck in January 2009 in West Kendall after a bus driver dropped her off on the wrong side of the street.

The driver, Harvey Abraham, 37, was convicted of leaving the scene of an accident involving death and tampering with evidence.

He will be sentenced early next year, and faces from two to 35 years in prison.

“The trial was just very hard because it took me back to that moment of her death. He took two lives that day. The dead are dead, but the living are the ones who stay behind suffering,” Rosete said this week. “But after three years, it’s closure.”

Ashley’s death spurred Miami-Dade County to implement an “Ashley Alert” text-message system for which county residents can sign up to receive alerts on crime and traffic issues. The alerts are intended to spread the word on crimes such as hit-and-run accidents like the one that killed Ashley.

In March 2009 — in a ceremony featuring dozens of the girl’s classmates — county officials also renamed the portion of Southwest 80th Street where Ashley died after her.

Ashley had just started sixth grade at Howard Doolin Middle School in West Kendall. Her mother also cares for her younger daughter, Amanda Batista, who suffers from Angelman Syndrome, a condition similar to cerebral palsy.

Ashley was killed Jan. 8, 2009, when a substitute school bus driver dropped her off on the wrong side of the Southwest 80th Street in West Kendall. She was crossing 80th Street when a Ford F-150 plowed into her, hurling her body 80 feet. Her family later received a settlement from the Miami-Dade school district.

Two school-age sisters in a nearby car witnessed the accident.

At the time, Abraham — a father of two daughters — worked as an administrative assistant at an accounting firm. He took his truck to a body shop, and even filed an insurance claim, saying he was the victim, prosecutor Suzanne Von Paulus told jurors at his trial.

As Miami-Dade traffic homicide detectives searched for the truck and fielded more than 70 tips, Allstate insurance inspected the vehicle and mailed a check to Harvey for the damage.

While the partially disassembled truck sat outside a South Miami auto body shop, a citizen — who heard about the case through the news media — called police. The shop’s owner, working with police, called Abraham to the shop under the pretense that he needed to sign more paperwork for the repair job.

Detectives arrested Abraham, who claimed he thought he had struck a dog. Jurors took 25 minutes to convict him.

“The whole thing is tragic. There was nothing he could have done to avoid this accident,” said his defense attorney, David Donet. “From the beginning he said he never realized what he hit. But he is really devastated by what happened to Ashley and is very remorseful.”

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