Telling a court she was "truly ashamed of myself," the self-proclaimed underaged "party princess" who fatally struck a chef while driving drunk after bartending at a South Beach nightclub agreed to a plea deal Wednesday afternoon.
"I know that my actions utterly shattered the hearts of his wife, his friends, and all who knew him," an emotional Karlie Tomica told the court.
Tomica had a blood alcohol content of three times the legal limit when she struck Shore Club chef Stefano Riccioletti on Collins Avenue one early January morning on her way home from a shift at Nikki Beach nightclub, prosecutors say. Riccioletti was thrown 30 feet and died at the scene.
A driver who witnessed the accident followed Tomica as she fled, giving a 911 dispatcher a play-by-play of the incident.
Tomica pled guilty to charges of DUI manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident with death, DUI with property damage, and resisting an officer without violence. Both she and Nikki Beach face separate lawsuits from Riccioletti's son and widow, who accused the club of allowing her to consume alcohol underaged and then drive home.
"I killed him that morning," a crying Tomica told the court. "I had been drinking while I was at work. I got very drunk. I hit him with my car and I killed him... Driving away and leaving him to die was inexcusable."
According to Miami Herald reporter David Ovalle, Riccoletti's widow told the court his "spirit of forgiveness" led to the plea deal as she showed Tomica photos of his children.
"What will you do with this opportunity?" Patrizia Pesce asked Tomica, reading a statement on behalf of her family. "Will you waste it, or will you dedicate your life to improving the lives of others, and not destroying them?"
The case is one of many ruthless incidents in which local drivers have left the scene of a fatal accident. In fact, Miami-Dade had the most hit-and-runs in the state in 2012, with an average of 35 occurring every day.
A campaign to establish a minimum amount of jail time for hit-and-runs resulting in death or injury has begun after the controversial sentencing in January of a driver who killed cyclist Aaron Cohen in a hit-and-run on the Rickenbacker Causeway. In that case, driver Michele Traverso was sentenced to less than a year in jail.
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