When detectives pulled over Miami Lakes lawyer Marcos Gonzalez-Balboa to ask about the damage to his Mercedes-Benz, he had an excuse.
“A coconut hit my windshield,” he blurted out, according to an arrest warrant.
But extensive video footage, bar receipts for $300 in liquor, cellphone records, covert police surveillance and even a trip to the dump proved it was no falling fruit, authorities say.
The warrant released Wednesday reveals that county traffic-homicide detectives put together a meticulous case showing Gonzalez-Balboa was the drunk driver who hit and killed a South African national in Miami Lakes, then drove off leaving the woman to die on the dark street.
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“There was no coconut tree in the area where the victim was struck and killed,” Miami-Dade Detective Jeffrey Childers wrote in the arrest warrant.
Gonzalez-Balboa is charged with DUI manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident involving the Dec. 7 death of Tatum Holloway, 26, of Pretoria.
The 65-year-old personal-injury lawyer made his first court appearance Wednesday, the morning after his arrest. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Victoria Sigler cut his bond nearly in half, to $75,000. Gonzalez-Balboa — who has had two earlier DUI arrests that were dropped — will have to remain confined to his home, wearing an electronic ankle monitor, while he awaits trial.
“There’s no issue in this case of a risk of flight or danger to the community,” his lawyer, Miguel Del Aguila, told the judge. “He’s not going to leave. He hasn’t left in four months.”
The victim in the case was Holloway, whose parents both work teaching and supervising students at a Christian school in South Africa. Holloway was the middle of three children.
In school, Holloway was also an accomplished gymnast, competitive acrobat and actress. After graduating college, she joined Park West, a company that sells art on cruise chips. She was only visiting Miami for a few days for a training session.
“She was traveling the world selling art,” said Miami lawyer Paul Schwiep, who is representing the family in a lawsuit against Gonzalez-Balboa filed on Tuesday.
After her death, her family started the the Tatum Holloway Foundation to help underprivileged South Africans received a better education.
“As a family we believe in forgiveness, mercy, justice and the priceless value of each human life. While nothing can bring our daughter back to us, it is our prayer that this case will serve to deter future similar conduct,” the family said in a statement.
At first, her death seemed a mystery.
Holloway was found face down next to a storm drain on Miami Lakes Drive and Fairway Drive in the suburban town just north of Hialeah. Her body had been hurled more than 50 feet. The collision, just before 2 a.m. on Dec. 7, was so powerful that it knocked the watch off her wrist.
On the scene, Miami-Dade police found a portion of a Mercedes bumper. After the death hit the news, a tipster called detectives to report the silver 2013 Mercedes C250 belonging to Gonzalez-Balboa parked near his office; the car had a battered windshield and bumper, according to the arrest warrant.
That evening, Miami-Dade Detective Michael Tapanes went to Gonzalez-Balboa’s house to “set up a visual surveillance.” He later stopped the lawyer and saw the car’s front end damage matched what happened in the hit-and-run crash. The windshield also had just been replaced.
Other than blaming the damage on a coconut, Gonzalez-Balboa refused to talk about what happened, the warrant said. But he did hand over his cellphone. An analysis by the FBI revealed the phone was in use in the area where the accident occurred, at the same time, police said.
Detectives found the Pompano Beach repair shop where he fixed the windshield the morning of the crash, and also found the old windshield at a recycling dump in Deerfield Beach, police said.
They also found that Gonzalez-Balboa had been drinking at Bulla Gastrobar in Coral Gables, buying 19 drinks, including El Jimador tequila on the rocks, margaritas and Grey Goose vodka on the rocks. How many of those drinks he downed himself was unclear — but prosecutors believe he was clearly impaired.
The reason: Surveillance video of the Coral Gables parking garage showed him stumbling to his car. “He had trouble putting money or a ticket in the machine that operates the exit gate,” according to the warrant, which was also prepared by prosecutor Laura Adams.
The footage also showed the car had no damage when it left the garage shortly before the crash. Also key: surveillance footage from a neighbor’s house revealed Gonzalez-Balboa arrived home right after the crash with the car damaged.
This was not Gonzalez-Balboa’s first brush with traffic law.
Between 1993 and 2013, he was issued 22 tickets. Most of them were dismissed, but his record shows convictions for careless driving, speeding and running a stop sign. He also had two DUI cases dismissed. In a 2006 case, he was accused of DUI with property damage, but he wound up escaping with only a conviction for reckless driving.
Gonzalez-Balboa graduated from University of Florida’s Levin College of Law in 1979 and was admitted to the Florida Bar later that year. He has a clean 10-year discipline history.