DUI driver sentenced in Miami Heat dancer death - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

DUI driver sentenced in Miami Heat dancer death

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WSVN) -- A judge has sentenced the man convicted of killing a Miami Heat dancer in a drunk driving crash to 15 years in prison.

Mario Careaga, convicted with DUI manslaughter in the death of 22-year-old Miami Heat dancer Nancy Lopez-Ruiz, was sentenced with credit for time served, Monday evening. "I've often thought that I wish it was me instead of Nancy," said Careaga earlier that day during his sentencing hearing.

Careaga's blood alcohol level was reported at .24 when his Mercedes struck and killed Lopez-Ruiz, who was on her motorcycle along U.S. 1, near Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, back in September of 2010. He claimed he was trying to avoid an aggressive driver.

Ruiz' father also took the stand and spoke in Spanish with the help of a translator. "He said, a few moments ago, that he suffers, that he cries. I understand but not as much as we do," he said.

When Marjorie Lacy, Ruiz' sister, had her chance to speak at the hearing, she did not hold back her emotions about character witness, the defense attorney called up to testify on the integrity of Careaga. "I ask you and all of you here who claim to be this man's friend, where were you that night? Why could you not call them to drive you home? Why could you not pick up the phone to have them drive you home?"

Careaga said he would like to work with the family to educate others about the consequences of drinking and driving. "I wish there was something I could do, for you and for Nancy. The only thing I could think of is to just service and provide a community outreach to prevent something like this from happening," he said. "Maybe using Nancy Lopez-Ruiz's name so that her name will live on forever."

Defense attorneys said they will appeal the sentencing. Because Careaga has no priors and is appealing the case, he satisfies the requirements to be granted a bond, so the judge granted him a $100,000 bond with a GPS monitoring device. His attorney anticipates Careaga will bond out by tomorrow morning.


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