Thursday, January 31, 2013

16 Years, Two Fatal Crashes, One Common Link

Karlie Tomica, the 20 year-old part-time bartender and self-described "party princess" who's facing charges following Monday's hit-and-run crash in South Beach that left a hotel chef dead, worked at Nikki Beach Club, a night spot that began as a tribute for the victim of a 1997 DUI-related crash.

Click to enlarge.

In a 2009 interview with, Nikki Beach owner Jack Penrod recounted how his popular Ocean Drive club got its start:
I don’t like to talk about it, because the reason for opening Nikki Beach is very personal. My young daughter, Nicole, died in a car accident in [1997]. In order to deal with my emotional situation, I created a garden for her at Penrod's Beach Club in South Beach. She would have loved the garden by the sea. I had no intention of making a business out of it, but one day two young guys showed up who wanted to have a Monday night party there. At first, I said no, but they were the same age as Nicole, so I gave in.
I decided that my personal tragedy shouldn’t consume me, but that I should pay tribute to the life she lived, a commitment to celebrate life. There’s a picture of Nicole in every place we open.
From the Miami Herald, March 16, 1998:
A pickup truck driven by a plumber rammed into the rear of a Toyota 4-Runner 10 months ago, killing Nicole Penrod , 18-year-old daughter of millionaire club owner Jack Penrod.

Now Marcel LeDoux , 41, is charged with two DUI counts, one for manslaughter and the other for causing serious injury to passenger Jennifer Ireland, 19, a University of Pennsylvania freshman. The impact broke her neck. LeDoux is also charged with marijuana possession. Police found pot, a scale and about $1,400 cash in his truck.

LeDoux's blood-alcohol level was 0.19, more than twice the legal limit, says Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Gonzalo Pena. The driver of the 4-Runner, Gina Canoniga, took a blood test that night. Negative for alcohol, but positive for marijuana, Pena says.

She received immunity from prosecution, her lawyer Roy Black says. ``A tragic accident, but it wasn't Gina's fault,'' says Sherry Ireland, Jennifer's mother.
In 1999, LeDoux was sentenced to 10 years in state prison. He was released in 2008.

While Tomica is only charged with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in a death, more charges could be filed when the results of toxicology tests are learned.

NBC Miami reported on Tuesday,
The good Samaritan who followed and helped officers find the driver who struck and killed a man in Miami Beach said the woman appeared to be 'really drunk,' according to 911 calls released by police Tuesday.
Officers and witnesses said Tomica had slurred speech, an odor of alcohol on her breath and was unsteady on her feet, the [arrest] affidavit said. She refused field sobriety tests but a blood sample was taken and the results are pending, the report said.
Today Miami Beach Police spokesperson Sgt. Bobby Hernandez told the Huffington Post that investigators are not looking into whether or not laws were broken at the club.
"Our investigation solely is the hit-and-run accident," Hernandez said, adding that prosecutors may later try to establish whether or not Tomica was drinking at the club.
Tomica is free on $10,000 bond. She's scheduled to appear before a judge on Feb. 27th.

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