Friday, July 12, 2013
Out for Justice: Deborah Peterson
Driving on I-95 can be deadly when there are drunk drivers on the road. When people are killed, the families expect justice to be served, but as 7's Patrick Fraser tells us in tonight's Out for Justice, sometimes it isn't so easy. Here is one family's story.
WSVN -- Deborah Peterson pulled up in front of her mother's Broward home at midnight.
Martha Wright: "She said, 'I'm going in the house to see my mom.' So then she got out, she told me, 'Let's go, we got to go.'"
Deborah and two of her friends then drove up to Palm Beach County. A few hours later, Martha did get a visitor: a Florida Highway Patrol officer who came to deliver horrible news.
Martha Wright: "It was the girl that's driving the car, she was intoxicated when she killed them."
An alleged drunk driver weaving in and out of traffic had crashed into Deborah's car, killing Deborah and one of her friends.
Martha Wright: "The car flip, I think three times. She die right there, right then and there."
Martha's only child, gone, dead. Now also gone, the accused drunk driver, 23-year-old Daniella Torres.
Walter Hunter: "The people in West Palm Beach and the justice system failed."
After Torres was arrested, no one in the Palm Beach State Attorney's Office asked a judge to seize Torres' passport, despite the fact she was a native of Brazil and accused of two counts of manslaughter.
Martha Wright: "Why didn't you take this girl's passport? Why not?"
Last August, as the trial date approached, Torres got on a plane to Brazil. An assistant state attorney called Martha to tell her what had happened.
Martha Wright: "I said, 'Skipped the country!' She said, 'Ain't nothing we can do.'"
The United States does have an extradition treaty with Brazil, and after Torres fled, the State Attorney's Office vowed to pursue her, but so far nothing has happened. We wanted to talk to someone from the Palm Beach State Attorney's Office about the case. No one would even return a phone call or an e-mail.
However, they have admitted they failed miserably. In this Palm Beach Post article in 2012, State Attorney Peter Antonacci is quoted as saying, "It's disgusting. I haven't gotten to the bottom of it, why we didn't require that her passport be surrendered. We typically do. Someone dropped the ball."
While the Palm Beach State Attorney's Office won't discuss the case, Daniella Torres' attorney, Jeffrey Weiner did come to their defense. Weiner told us, "No one had any idea that Daniella was going to evade the court's jurisdiction." Weiner added, "She was scared to death with the trial coming up, but we don't know why she fled."
However, Deborah's friends say, being afraid of a trial is no excuse to avoid a trial for killing two people.
Walter Hunter: "They continually say that somebody dropped the ball. Well, who dropped the ball? Let's get the ball rolling again."
Now Deborah's family is trying. In June, community leaders in Pompano Beach marched in what they called a "Walk for Justice" to try to get the U.S. government to do something to bring Daniella Torres back to face the charges.
Walter Hunter: "We're going to be going to churches, talking to pastors, talking to congregations, trying to get them to stand with us."
Someone knows where Daniella Torres is hiding, maybe in Brazil, maybe somewhere else. If you have any information, give Crime Stoppers of Palm Beach County a call at 1-800-458-TIPS.
And if you have lost a loved one and want to remind people you're still Out for Justice, give us a call. I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Out For Justice
Miami-Dade: 305-598-HELP (4357)
Broward: 954-796-HELP (4357)