Crime

Prosecutors: Driver in Key Biscayne cyclist’s death legally drunk

Coral Gables attorney Henry Hernandez, in a wheelchair, was injured in the hit-and-run crash that killed friend Walter Reyes. Hernandez appeared in court Friday as prosecutors formally charged the suspect, Alejandro Alvarez.
Coral Gables attorney Henry Hernandez, in a wheelchair, was injured in the hit-and-run crash that killed friend Walter Reyes. Hernandez appeared in court Friday as prosecutors formally charged the suspect, Alejandro Alvarez. David Ovalle

After a night of drinks at a South Beach nightclub, a college student was legally drunk when he hit and killed a cyclist on Key Biscayne, a prosecutor said Friday.

Alejandro Alvarez still had a blood alcohol content level of .115, well above the legal limit of .08, two hours after the wreck that killed Walter Reyes last month. Alvarez also tested positive for marijuana.

Prosecutors revealed the evidence Friday as they formally charged Alvarez, 21, a University of Maryland student, with DUI manslaughter and host of other felonies.

During his interview with Miami-Dade police, Alvarez admitted to driving the car that crashed into the cyclists. But in a transcript released Friday afternoon, Alvarez refused to admit to anything else.

“Had you been drinking tonight, last night?” Detective Michael Quiñones asked.

“Next,” Alvarez replied.

“Any drugs,” the detective pressed.

“Next,” Alvarez said.

At Friday’s court hearing, Reyes’ widow, daughter and supporters crowded the courtroom to watch. Also there, seated in a wheelchair: Coral Gables attorney Henry Hernandez, who was seriously injured in the crash that happened a half a mile past the Crandon Park Marina.

Reyes’ is the third hit-and-run death of a cyclist on the road to Key Biscayne — the most popular cycling route in Miami-Dade County — in five years. The tragedy has again renewed calls for safety measures along Crandon and the Rickenbacker Causeway.

The investigation revealed that Alvarez had been partying all night at South Beach’s Club Twist, where he had at least five drinks. He left briefly to take a friend to her car, but returned.

“He partied by himself until leaving the club,” prosecutor Denise Georges told the judge.

According to police, at just past 5 a.m. he was driving his 2014 Volkswagen Jetta back to his Key Biscayne home when he swerved into the bike lane and hit the two cyclists.

He told police that he was looking at his iPhone to change songs when he hit the men. Scared, he drove to his Harbor Drive home, smashing out his rear window with a golf club to “fake a robbery,” police said.

But Alvarez finally called 911 and an operator told him to go back to the crash scene. Police noted he was “hysterically crying” when he returned, admitting to being the driver of the car. Alvarez failed a roadside sobriety test and refused to consent to a blood sample. He also smelled of booze and slurred his speech, police said.

During his interview with Miami-Dade detectives, he anxiously fretted about possible criminal charges.

“I’ve never been involved with the law or in trouble with the law ever,” Alvarez said. “I’m a good person.”

Alvarez’s lawyers entered a plea of not guilty on Friday. He did not speak during or after the hearing.

“There are no words to express how sorry he is, and his family is,” his defense lawyer, David O. Markus, said after Friday’s court hearing. “All we can say our prayers are with the families.”

Alvarez, whose family lives in a $2.9 million home on Key Biscayne, will be fitted with an electronic ankle monitor after prosecutors said he posed a “flight risk.” He faces up to 50 years in prison.

He cannot drink alcohol or drive a car while awaiting trial.

The relatives of Hernandez and Reyes declined to speak to the media. Afterward, they received condolences from Patricia Cohen, whose husband, triathlete Aaron Cohen, was killed in a 2012 near the same spot.

His death spurred lawmakers to pass the Aaron Cohen Act, which imposed a mandatory-minimum prison sentence of four years for drivers convicted of leaving the scene of a fatal crash. It also boosted the mandatory-minimum prison sentence from two years to four years for a DUI driver who leaves a fatal crash scene.

“It’s eerily similar and I am so angry that this could happen again,” Cohen said of the latest fatality. “I realize this is a societal tragedy. This is a real culture problem. I can’t believe these poor people have to go through the same thing I did.”

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