Eight Months After Ferrari Hit-and-Run, Driver Has Not Been Charged
It ended with a boom: a 40-year relationship and two lives -- one dead and gone, the other alive and alone. Jorge Arrojas and his partner, Miguel Larrieu, were heading home, fresh from a dinner party in Bal Harbour around midnight last August 10 on I-75 when a red 2009 Ferrari 430 Scuderia smacked the couple's Hyundai at close to 100 mph.
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As the Hyundai somersaulted right, the sports car, its front end accordioned, skidded left into the grassy median. Larrieu, a 63-year-old retired engineer, found his partner unconscious and slumped over. By the time authorities arrived, the driver of the disabled Ferrari had run off; Arrojas was pronounced dead on the scene.
"If there is a God," a tearful Larrieu says today, "he was watching over me that day."
Two days later, the Florida Highway Patrol identified amateur racecar driver Radomin Delgado as the Ferrari's owner. But even now, eight months later, neither he nor anyone else has been arrested for the tragic hit-and-run. To Larrieu, that's a travesty. "I hate the fact that this man hasn't been charged yet," he says.
The Ferrari's driver had no incentive to stay, to help, or to call 911. Thanks to a glitch in Florida law, dozens or perhaps hundreds of motorists who have fled deadly crashes later squeezed free with light sentences despite their cold-blooded behavior. New legislation sitting on Gov. Rick Scott's desk aims to curtail Florida's culture of hit-and-run. It's one small step toward keeping more blood off the streets. After reviewing more than 20 cases of pedestrians and motorists killed by drivers who fled, New Times found:
• Runaway killers have driven every kind of car from Lamborghinis to Mustangs and have been intoxicated with everything from booze to synthetic marijuana.
• Victims range from Bible salesmen to vacationing tourists. One was a 5-year-old on a tricycle.
• The average sentence was 2.9 years of jail time or house arrest.
• Recently, there's been an explosion of hit-and-runs across Florida, with an average of three people killed every week.
"This is an epidemic," says Jose "Pepe" Diaz, a Miami-Dade commissioner who's worked on legislation to address the problem. "It's heartbreaking, disturbing, and frustrating when you see these people leave the scene of an accident. Enough is enough."
Current Florida sentencing guidelines for leaving the scene of an accident are vague. They can be anywhere from 21 months to 30 years if the wreck involves death. Judges have extreme discretion to weigh factors such as a defendant's criminal record or health condition when handing out a sentence.
But when a drunk driver is involved, the court must hand down at least a four-year sentence. That means -- unless you are drunk -- judges can be extraordinarily lenient. It also means drivers have every incentive to flee a crash.
And drivers are doing it in increasing numbers. In 2012, the state totaled 70,000 hit-and-runs, an increase of 500 from the previous year, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. That includes 166 fatalities.
What's shocking is how many of those responsible escape without significant jail time. Take, for example, the case of Craig Elford and Kenneth Watkinson. In February 2009, the two men were in Fort Lauderdale to recruit hires for their U.K.-based pharmaceutical company. As the men stood steps from their hotel on A1A at 2:30 a.m., 34-year-old Ryan LeVin came barreling down the street in a $120,000 Porsche 911 Turbo.
The scion of a successful Illinois-based jewelry company, the driver hopped the curb, killed both men, and drove off. LeVin abandoned the Porsche on an I-595 on-ramp and later tried to pin the blame on a friend.
LeVin already had a lengthy record of moving violations and cocaine possession; he was also involved in a 2006 high-speed chase in Chicago that hurt a cop and two pedestrians. Prosecutors asked Broward County Judge Barbara McCarthy to sentence the driver to ten years in prison.