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Entries in Miami (35)

Tuesday
Feb192013

Miami ‘Party Princess’ Faces DUI Manslaughter Charge

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- Karlie Tomica is a college student who’s known as the Miami Beach "party princess," but police say her blood alcohol content was three times over the legal limit when she drove her boyfriend’s car, hit a well-known chef and fled the scene.

The chef, 49-year-old Stefano Riccioletti, was killed in the Jan. 28 accident, which happened in the early morning on Collins Avenue, a popular Miami Beach thoroughfare.  Riccioletti, who was married with three children, was the executive chef at Terraza at Shore Club, an upscale restaurant.

Police initially charged Tomica, 20, with leaving the scene of an accident, but added the DUI manslaughter charge when they got the results of her blood alcohol test.  She faces up to 30 years in prison if she’s convicted.

Tomica was apparently leaving her bartending job at the popular Nikki Beach nightclub when she allegedly hit Riccioletti.  He was reportedly thrown by the impact.  A witness called 911 and followed Tomica, and police arrested her.

Riccioletti’s family members have filed lawsuits against Tomica and Nikki Beach, arguing the club is responsible for allowing Tomica to leave intoxicated.

Riccoletti’s wife, Patrizia Pesce, said her first thought upon learning of her husband’s death was her children.

“How am I going to tell them that they have lost their Dad?” she said.

The family’s attorney, Jose Baez, added: “Stefano is not here, and it doesn’t matter if it is a car or a gun, he was killed.  And the persons or person responsible for that need to be held accountable.”

Tomica’s attorney, Mark Shapiro, said his client is a young girl who made a tragic mistake.

“She’s just a regular person who finds herself in this horrible situation,” he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb082013

Miami Judge Allows Three Names on Birth Certificate

(MIAMI) -- Few people can say that they legally have three parents, but 23-month-old Emma Filippazzo will be able to after a Miami-Dade county judge signed off an an agreement that a lesbian couple and a gay man are all parents of the child, stating it on her birth certificate.

Hair stylist Massimilano Gerina of Miami Beach met lesbian couple Maria Italiano and Cher Filippazzo in 2006 when they became clients of his, eventually building a strong friendship. Italiano and Filippazzo were trying to conceive and approached Gerina first in 2008 and then a second time in late 2009, to be the father of their baby.

“They wanted me to be the father of the baby, because they liked me and my look and how I am Italian like Maria is,” Gerina said. The trio originally had a verbal agreement where they discussed that “I was going to be the father of the baby and I would be able to see her whenever I wanted. I never thought about papers and I assumed that it was going to happen period, without thinking of the legal point of view.”

According to Gerina’s lawyer, Karyn J. Begin, “The insemination took place in a private setting, where he [Gerina] was the donor and the other parties were in communication with each other through the entire time."  

“We thought we were going to try for months, but it happened in an amount of days," Gerina said. "It was so fast we did not even think about papers.”

Although Gerina thought he was going to be a new father that almost changed when Italiano and Filippazzo asked him to sign paperwork stating that Gerina would only be considered a sperm donor and have no parental rights to the child.

“I was shocked," Gerina said, "I did not see that coming and I felt a little betrayed.”

That’s when Gerina sought legal action from Begin, who had handled a similar case before.  Although Begin warned her client that it was going to be a long and painful process, Gerina filed a paternity lawsuit after the birth of his daughter Emma, who was born on March 10, 2011.

“I gave him options,” said Begin, "and we ended up finishing this case after two years of litigation, because both parties reached an agreement as to how they were going to approach their family for the future.”

According to Florida law, sperm donors do not have any parental rights. However, Begin stressed that this case was not affected by this law and does not affect the current Florida law, because there is an agreement between the two parties.

After the two-year legal battle, when Gerina was not permitted to see his daughter, Judge Antonio Marin signed off on an agreement reached on Jan. 31, granting Gerina weekly visits with Emma for several hours, at the mothers’ residence or an otherwise agreed upon location.  Emma’s birth certificate was issued with all three parents’ names on it.

“I am the father and I have visitation, but legally speaking, they [Italiano and Filippazzo] are the parents, but that does not exclude me from Emma’s activities or major decisions,” Gerina says.

Gerina says that he is still good friends with the couple and “whatever happened we put it in the past,” and that he does not think any less of them because of what transpired.

Gerina says he sees his daughter all of the time now and is constant contact with the couple on how she is doing.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec282012

Miami Leaders Seek Reduction in Gun Violence

David De Lossy/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- Police, religious leaders and community leaders in Miami, Fla., are calling on residents to not fire guns aimlessly into the air during the upcoming New Year’s celebration, or during any other holiday festivities for that matter.

A campaign called “No More Stray Bullets” was started five years ago after a 5-year-old boy was killed by a stray bullet during a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

The awareness campaign may be more poignant than ever in the wake of the killing of school children in Connecticut, but Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones says gun violence is a part of everyday life for many children in Miami.

“Right here in our own neighborhood, right here in our backyard, kids are dying every single day,” she says.

The city is also offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who provides information about an illegal gun.  Miami Police Chief Manny Orosa says some 600 weapons have been taken off the streets since 2008.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov212012

Girl, 7, 'Not Right' After Seeing Sister, 13, Shot Dead on Florida School Bus

George Doyle/Stockbyte(MIAMI) -- A young Florida girl is "not the same" after seeing her older sister, 13, shot dead on a school bus early Tuesday, allegedly by a 15-year-old boy.

"She's not right. She's not the same 7-year-old after seeing what she saw," the mother of the two girls told reporters in an interview in English and Spanish. "She was just screaming. So hurt."

The 13-year-old shooting victim, Lourdes Guzman-DeJesus, was sitting a few rows from her 7-year-old sister Tuesday morning in Homestead, Fla., when the 15-year-old shot her, according to the Miami-Dade Police Department.

The 15-year-old is in custody and faces charges of manslaughter and carrying a concealed firearm. Though the charges allow that the shooting could have been an accident.

Police responded to shots fired inside a private bus around 6:45 a.m., and found several dazed students, including Guzman's little sister, officials said.

"It's traumatic, and now you are going to have to question them and ask them what they saw," Miami-Dade County police detective Alvaro Zabaleta told ABC News. "It's a sad situation."

Lourdes, known to her family and friends as "Jina," was shot an unknown number of times and airlifted to Miami Children's Hospital, where she died from her injuries, police said.

The boy's first first court hearing was Wednesday morning, where it was decided he would remain in juvenile custody until Dec. 11, according to the Miami Herald. On that date, prosecutors will decide whether he will be charged as an adult.

"He has to pay for what he did," DeJesus told reporters.

The shooting happened just a few minutes away from Palm Glades Preparatory Academy, a charter middle school that the victim attended.

A firearm was recovered on the scene and all of the students, plus the bus driver, were transferred to the homicide unit, where Miami-Dade County police began the delicate task of questioning the students about what happened, officials said. The bus did not have a surveillance camera.

Other officers combed the scene for clues and gathered the students' belongings, police said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov202012

Girl, 7, Sees Sister, 13, Shot Dead on School Bus in South Florida

Hemera/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- One student is in custody and another six are in shock after watching a 13-year-old girl being shot aboard their school bus Tuesday morning in Homestead, Fla. An unidentified male student is in custody for the crime, according to authorities.

“It’s traumatic, and now you are going to have to question them and ask them what they saw,” said Miami-Dade County police detective Alvaro Zabaleta. “It’s a sad situation.”

Cops walked next to the bus with dazed students, including the 7-year-old sister of the teenage girl who was shot an unknown number of times and airlifted to Miami Children’s Hospital, where she died from her injuries. Other officers combed the scene for clues and gathered the students’ belongings.

Police have released little information about what they believe sparked this deadly early-morning incident, which happened about 6:45 and just a few minutes away from the victim’s school. The shooting occurred on a private bus that was dropping off both elementary and middle school students to three separate schools. Police believe one of the students on the bus brought the weapon onboard but have said little, including whether the shooting was accidental or deliberate.

A firearm was recovered on the scene and all of the students, plus the bus driver, were transferred to the homicide unit, where Miami-Dade County police had to begin the delicate task of questioning the students about what happened. The bus did not have a surveillance camera.

Grief counselors were dispatched to Palm Glades Preparatory Academy, which the victim attended.

 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov142012

Miami Triple Slaying: Mother and Daughters Found Dead in Bedroom Closet

Olga Cecilia Espinoza(MIAMI) -- Homicide police in Miami are investigating a triple slaying after a mother and her two daughters were discovered dead in a bedroom closet by a neighbor who smelled a foul odor.

The bodies were found at a home in northwest Miami Tuesday afternoon, said police, who have not publicly identified the victims.

But a family friend confirmed that Gladys Machado, 29, lived at the house with her two girls, Julia Padrino, 8, and Daniela Padrino, 6.

Olga Espinoza told ABC News that Machado also had a son, Michael, 6. The boy was found "safe and unharmed," according to police.

He was safe with his grandmother, the Miami Herald reported.

"She was friendly. She was outgoing, and a wonderful mother," Espinoza said through tears. "The little kids used to call me mom. Those kids were very friendly, very sweet. They were very attached to people. It's just devastating how someone so cold blooded and cruel could do something like this."

 

Miami-Dade police said they are investigating the deaths as a homicide. They have not yet released the cause or manner of death, which will be determined by the medical examiner. Investigators said that have not yet released the family's identities, pending notification of other relatives.

The bodies were discovered Tuesday when the neighbor, who has not been named, entered Machado's home and noticed an odd smell.

"The neighbor, who has access to the house, was in the house and smelled an odor that she wasn't familiar with," Miami-Dade Police spokesman Roy Rutland told ABC News. "She searched the house, and discovered the bodies inside the closet."

Rutland said investigators who responded to the scene learned that there was a son who lived in the house. Police at first believed he was missing, but were soon able to track him down, he said.

Espinoza said she had known Gladys Machado for about six years from the Lil' Pirates Learning Center, where both of their children attended child care. She said she last spoke with her Friday.

"I tried to contact her, and the phone went straight to voicemail, something that she never does, she would always call or text us back," she said.

Machado, who worked as an administrative assistant for the Beauty Schools of America, Espinoza said, posted a message on her Facebook wall hours earlier that read, "Where this road goes no one knows."

Machado had been separated from the father of her children for years, Espinoza said. She said Machado was dating someone else, but said she didn't know much about him.

Neighbors told the Miami Herald that Machado was living with a boyfriend who was recently released from jail.

Police said they are following several leads in the case.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug092012

Face-Eating Victim Describes Attack

Rudy Eugene is pictured in this undated mugshot. (Obtained by ABC News) (MIAMI) -- The Miami man who had half his face chewed off by a deranged assailant told police that moments before the grisly assault began the man said to him, "You, me, buddy, and nobody else here. I'm going to kill you."

Rudy Eugene's assault on Ronald Poppo actually happened on a busy Miami street on May 26 and Eugene had to be shot several times by a police officer to stop the gruesome attack. Eugene was naked and responded to the initial shot by growling at the cop.

Two months after the horrific incident and after several surgeries, Poppo, 65, is now in a long term care facility in the Miami area where he is continuing to recover from his injuries. His doctors say he lost 50 percent of his face, making him almost unrecognizable. His left eye was destroyed. His right eye is still there, but doctors covered it with a flap taken from skin from his forehead and scalp.

In the taped interviews that were conducted on July 19, two Miami homicide detectives asked what assailant Rudy Eugene, who was shot and killed by police during the attack, said to Poppo.

"For a very short amount of time I thought he was a good guy," Poppo calmly told police in the audio recordings. "But he just went and turned berserk. ...He just ripped me to ribbons. He chewed up my face. He plucked out my eyes…Basically that's all there is to say about it."

In the seconds before Eugene began to mutilate him, Poppo recalled that Eugene's conversation turned ominous.

"You, me, buddy and nobody else here," Poppo recalled. "I'm going to kill you. Or something like that, I guess."

"Did he say why?" Detective Sgt. Altarr Williams asked.

"No, he just started to scream," Poppo said. "And was talking kind of funny talk for a while too… He must have been souped up on something."

Although Poppo sounded calm through the interview, he recounted very vivid and gruesome moments during the attack.

"He mashed my face into the sidewalk," he said. "My eyes, my eyes got plucked out. He was strangling me in wrestling holds at the same time he was plucking my eyes out."

According to CBS Miami in another interview Poppo told detectives that Rudy Eugene blamed him for stealing his Bible although he said he never saw him with a Bible.

Poppo told police he had never met Eugene before the attack and that he did nothing to provoke the attack.

"I just didn't know how to get away from the guy," Poppo said.

"I thank the Miami Police Department for saving my life…If they didn't get there in a nick of time I would've definitely be in worse shape. Possibly I'll be DOA [dead on arrival]."

Eugene was shot and killed by police after they say their repeated pleas to get him to stop attacking Poppo were met with growls. Surveillance video shows that for 18 agonizing minutes Poppo was disrobed from the waist down, kicked, punched and bitten before police shot Eugene four times.

Poppo, who once attended New York City's elite Stuyvesant High School and dreamed of becoming president, will need months of reconstructive surgery. A foundation set up in his name has raised thousands of dollars.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul272012

Florida Authorities Arrest Fugitive Nightclub Owner Wanted for Alcohol Scam

Alex Simchuk is seen in this undated booking photo. Miami Police(MIAMI) -- A fugitive night club owner who allegedly used beautiful women to defraud wealthy men in an alcohol scheme is scheduled to appear in Miami federal court Friday.

Alec Simchuk, 45, was arrested at Miami International Airport on Thursday by the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations without incident, said Special Agent Michael D. Leverock.

In total, the FBI said 88 men were preyed upon by a crime ring that illegally brought in attractive women from Eastern Europe and used them to lure men from Miami hotspots like the Hotel Delano, Clevelander and Fontainebleau to shady clubs nearby where the girls plied their alleged victims with liquor, forged their signatures and charged them "exorbitant prices" for alcohol. Simchuk, who is from Latvia, faces pending federal charges for his role in the scheme.

John Bolaris, a former weatherman in Philadelphia who fell victim to the crime ring, told 20/20 last month how he was first approached by two women at a South Beach bar during his 2010 vacation.

"They came across very cutesy, and very sincere, and very nice, like the girls next door," Bolaris said "This wasn't a hooker-type thing."

But when a $43,712.25 charge hit his American Express card, Bolaris knew something about those nights he could not remember wasn't right.

After spending 13 months and more than an estimated $1 million investigating the case, the FBI staged a birthday party at one of the clubs to arrest the bar girls, often referred to as b-girls, and their managers.

Although Simchuk and several of b-girls already had returned to their native countries, an officer who had infiltrated the ring as a "dirty cop" invited all the remaining suspects to attend his pretend "birthday party" in April at Club Tangia.

The FBI raided the club fully armed, arresting 16 suspects that night, including almost a dozen b-girls and a handful of male managers and accountants.

Simchuk had already fled to his native Latvia at the time of the raid.

It was unclear what prompted him to return to Florida on Thursday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun272012

Miami Face-Eating Attack Not Caused by Bath Salts?

Miami-Dade Police Dept.(MIAMI) -- Bath salts was not the cause of the incident in Miami in which a naked man was discovered chewing the face of a homeless man.

The medical examiner found no psychotropic drugs in the body of the so-called Miami face-eater Rudy Eugene.  On Memorial Day weekend, police shot and killed Eugene after his cannibalistic attack on Ronald Poppo.

According to the toxicology report, the medical examiner found only traces of marijuana in Eugene's system.  There were no traces of bath salts, LSD or anything that would cause some sort of psychotic frenzy, as police initially had suspected.

Eugene, 31, had been diagnosed with schizophrenia after a prior misdemeanor arrest, but was never referred to the court's mental illness diversion program, according to the judge who handled the case.  

His attack on Poppo, 65, who remains hospitalized after losing 75 percent of his face, was much more likely because of mental illness than the presence of drugs in his system.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun122012

Miami Cannibal Victim Recovering, But Unrecognizable

Rudy Eugene is pictured in this undated mugshot. (Obtained by ABC News)(MIAMI) -- Ronald Poppo, the 65-year-old Miami homeless man whose face was eaten during a vicious attack two weeks ago, is "doing well, eating, walking around, and remembers the attack," doctors said Tuesday as they updated the public for the first time on the victim's condition.

Poppo gave permission for doctors to discuss his case with reporters, but has had no visitors. Doctors described Poppo as upbeat despite significant portions of his face being destroyed, and said he's beginning to remember the horrific and unprovoked attack on the streets of the city.

"When Poppo arrived you could not make out facial features," said Dr. Nicolas Namias, chief of trauma at Miami Jackson Memorial Hospital. "Our primary goal was to close his wounds…[and] allow him to recover before undergoing more surgeries."

Doctors say his left eye was destroyed. His right eye is still there but they covered it with a flap taken from skin from his forehead and scalp. He suffered a brain injury, similar to those experienced by those involved in car accidents, according to doctors. Both his ears remain intact.

"Fifty percent of his face is gone, and he is missing all the features that would make him recognizable," said Dr. Wrood Kassira, Jackson chief of plastic surgery.

Mental health providers have begun seeing Poppo, and doctors described his condition as upbeat. Still, he has many months of surgery ahead.

"He had wounds involving the forehead, both eyes and the cheek. We did skin grafts to his wounds, which are still healing and evolving. He is missing his eyebrows and his eyes. It is hard to see who he is," said Dr. Namias.

Police say 31-year-old Rudy Eugene randomly met Poppo on the side of a heavily trafficked Miami thoroughfare during Memorial Day weekend. Police believe it was a chance encounter that occurred after Eugene dumped his car in South Beach and walked 3 ½ miles across a causeway, stripping off his clothes in broad daylight and then attacking Poppo.

Law enforcement officials continue to speculate that the dangerous new street drug "bath salts" may have played a role in the attack. Autopsy results on Eugene did not reveal any drugs in his system; however, toxicology results have not been released. Eugene was shot and killed by police after they say their repeated pleas to get him to stop attacking Poppo were met with growls.

Surveillance video shows that for 18 agonizing minutes Poppo was disrobed from the waist down, kicked, punched and eaten alive before police shot Eugene four times. Poppo then sat up covered in blood as three paramedics quickly got him onto a stretcher, put a neck brace on him and rushed him to the emergency room.

Poppo, who once attended New York City's elite Stuyvesant High School and dreamed of becoming president, will need months of reconstructive surgery that will cost thousands of dollars. A foundation set up in his name has raised $15,000.

Poppo qualifies for Medicare and Medicaid. He will have to decide which operations he seeks to undergo, which will most likely involve taking pieces from his skin to attempt to reconstruct his face. Doctors say he may not be a good candidate for a face transplant.

He will remain in the hospital for several more weeks, and then doctors and social workers will assess what to do with him next. He is currently battling a mild infection.

His doctors said he had a message for the public: "Go Heat." The team is meeting the Oklahoma City Thunder for the NBA championship.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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