Miami-Dade civil court

Miami-Dade jury awards $15 million to family in quintuple-death traffic death

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

More than two years after state troopers say he killed five people in a gruesome drunk-driving wreck on Interstate 95 in North Miami-Dade, Carlos Lacayo remains a fugitive.

But that didn’t stop a civil jury this week from awarding over $15 million in damages to the parents of one of the victims.

“He couldn’t run away from the civil justice system,” said lawyer Edward Blumberg, who is representing the family of victim Emerson Kastenholz.

The Miami-Dade civil jury deliberated about three hours Thursday before reaching its decision in the wrongful death lawsuit.

According to Miami-Dade court documents, Lacayo plowed his mother's gray 2010 Honda Accord into a crowd of motorists on the shoulder of Interstate 95 at Northwest 103rd Street just before 5 a.m. on March 5, 2011.

The motorists had just been involved in a series of minor accidents that started when one car clipped a stalled vehicle parked in the emergency lane.

In all, seven cars were involved. The crowd had gathered on the shoulder to await police when Lacayo's Accord veered from the express lane, smashing into the concrete barrier and plowing through the motorists, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Killed instantly in the crash were Kastenholz, 23; Antuan Fernandez Perez, 22; Evidia Rodriguez, 57; and Mirtha Queipo, 48. A fifth person, Ana Belkis Gomez, 38, died five days later at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Kastenholz was a recent University of Miami graduate from Palm Beach County who had been planning to attend graduate school.

According to court documents, Lacayo's blood alcohol content level was 0.127— well above the legal limit of 0.08 — four hours after the crash, after he had been admitted to the hospital.

He reeked of alcohol and admitted to one trooper that he had been drinking at a nightclub earlier in the evening, according to the FHP.

Troopers towed the Accord to a storage yard, where armed with the search warrant, they seized the car's air bags, keys and Lacayo's ID card. The deployed driver's side airbag was spotted with blood, which troopers believe belonged to Lacayo.

An arrest warrant was later issued charging Lacayo, 26, with five counts of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide. But Lacayo had vanished, and remains missing.

He faces up to 75 years in prison if convicted. Lacayo, who held a Florida real estate appraiser trainee license, had no previous criminal history in the state, records show.

The civil lawsuit was filed on behalf of Kastenholz’s parents, Michael and Kathleen, each of whom testified about the effects of their son’s death.

The judge had already ruled that Lacayo was liable for Kastenholz’s death.

Although Lacayo, whose family hails from Nicaragua, remains on the lam, he was represented during the four-day trial by a lawyer hired by his car insurance company. His mother testified at trial that she had no idea where her son is living.

The jury awarded $9 million to Kastenholz’s mother and $6 million to his father. Jurors awarded an additional $350,000 in punitive damages.

Read more Miami-Dade stories from the Miami Herald

  • Friends and Neighbors

    Florida A&M Rattlers alumni gather for big game

    The Florida A&M University South Florida chapters of the university’s National Alumni Association are preparing for a big weekend for the FAMU versus the University of Miami football game. But it’s not all about football for the Rattlers.

  • PolitiFact Florida

    Medical marijuana amendment allows patient to ‘get it forever,’ doctor says

    Opponents have made many arguments against Florida’s proposed medical marijuana amendment, but here’s a new one: They say patients would be able to get an unlimited amount of pot should the measure pass.

  •  
Traffic in the southbound lanes of I-95 was completely blocked Saturday night due to a crash along the busy interstate.

    HIGHWAY CRASH

    I-95 crash, leaves one dead and snarls southbound traffic in Broward

    A horrific crash on I-95 just south of Hallandale Beach Blvd. in Broward County Saturday night has left one dead and forced the closure of all southbound lanes on the busy interstate, according to Mark Wysocky, a Florida Highway Patrol spokesperson.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category