courts

South Beach ‘party princess’ charged with DUI manslaughter in chef’s death

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

In a packed, emotionally charged courtroom, a prosecutor rattled off the gruesome details of the hit-and-run crash that killed a South Beach chef.

The widow of Stefano Riccioletti sat at the prosecution table, her eyes red. And the accused drunken driver, 20-year-old Karlie Tomica, squeezed her teary eyes shut, her jaw trembling, hands shaking.

Her father wrapped his arms around her, as if to keep her from collapsing under the weight of the memories.

“It’s not just driving drunk, it’s not just speeding, it’s a hitting a human being, not caring,” prosecutor Warren Eth said.

The dramatic retelling of the hit-and-run crash came as prosecutors formally charged Tomica with DUI manslaughter, and a judge raised her bail to $77,000, ordering her to remain on house arrest.

A witness, Jairo Fuentes, said the impact sent Riccioletti’s body flying in the air and landing in the driveway of a nearby hotel.

Eth continued, recounting how a street barricade “was painted with blood.” Tomica kept going, even as Fuentes, the Good Samaritan, followed her, imploring her to stop. Instead, she tried to lose him along Collins Avenue.

When Fuentes confronted Tomica in the valet area of her condo, her blonde hair speckled with blood and flesh that had been sucked in through an open passenger-side window, she ignored him and went upstairs, Eth said.

Miami Beach police officers arrived and arrested her in her 17th-floor condo.

She refused to take a breathalyzer test at the scene, Eth said, and later fell asleep, snoring loudly, in a chair at the Miami Beach police station.

Detectives found another woman’s driver’s license in her purse, which they believe Tomica used to buy liquor.

This week, toxicology reports confirmed what investigators had suspected: Tomica was drunk when she struck Riccioletti, 49, a well-known chef, originally from Italy, who had worked in New York before coming to South Florida.

Two hours after the crash, Tomica’s blood alcohol content was a staggering .225, three times the legal limit.

Tomica, who described herself as a “party princess” on her Twitter account, had just finished her shift as a bartender at the Nikki Beach night club on South Beach.

Defense attorney Mark Shapiro argued against raising her bail, saying the former Florida International University student would be living with her parents and attending college in Port St. Lucie.

Her father, Karl Tomica, works at a nuclear power plant there.

“These are very responsible people,” Shapiro said.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Migna Sanchez Llorens was not swayed.

She raised the bail from $10,000, set a 7 p.m. curfew and ordered Tomica to attend Alcoholic Anonymous meetings.

Tomica also must stay away from bars, nightclubs and liquor.

“This is not an ordinary case,” Sanchez Llorens said, citing her concern about Tomica’s underage drinking.

Riccioletti, a father of three, was the executive chef at Terrazza at the Shore Club.

He is survived by three children: Jacopo, 18, who lives in Italy, and Camilla, 12, and Filippo, 8, who live in Miami.

His widow, Patrizia Pesce, attended Friday’s hearing with attorney Jose Baez.

Riccioletti’s relatives are suing Tomica and Nikki Beach.

“We are very happy that the judge granted all the requests by the prosecution,” Baez said afterward.

Prosecutors also filed charges of resisting arrest without violence and DUI property damage.

Tomica, who pleaded not guilty, was re-jailed briefly before posting the new bail.

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