Exclusive: Search Warrant Reveals Witnesses Say Wrong-Way Driver Was Drinking Before Crash
South Florida Crime
CORAL SPRINGS (CBSMiami) — A Florida Highway Patrol search warrant filed late Friday reveals two new and critical pieces of information about the activity of the suspected wrong way driver who killed two Coral Springs women on the Sawgrass Expressway last month.
In the search warrant, investigators said witnesses told them 20-year-old Kaila Mendoza, who did not have a driver’s license, was drinking at the Tijuana Taxi Co. in Coral Springs prior to the crash that killed Kaitlyn Ferrante and Marisa Catronio.
The warrant says “This investigator has since learned from additional witnesses, who provided sworn statements to this or other investigators with the FHP, that Kayla Mendoza was drinking alcoholic beverages with co-workers earlier the night of the crash at Tijuana Taxi Co. in Coral Springs.”
The owners of the restaurant told CBS 4 News that they have no knowledge that Mendoza was at the restaurant on the night of November 16th before the deadly accident and that no one at the restaurant remembers Mendoza being there.
Investigators filed the search warrant to take two vials of Mendoza’s blood to determine if she was under the influence of alcohol or other substances at the time of the crash. Toxicology reports are still pending. The search warrant also reveals that Mendoza is being investigated for DUI Manslaughter, Vehicular Homicide and Driving Without a License Causing Death. Mendoza continues to recover from her injuries and has not been charged.
CBS 4 News showed the search warrant to Marisa Catronio’s father Gary and Kaitlyn Ferrante’s mother Christine to get their reaction to the new information regarding Mendoza’s drinking.
“I’m totally outraged that an establishment would allow a minor come in there and drink without proper ID,” Catronio said.
Christine Ferrante concurred.
“If that was the place that she was drinking they should be held accountable for destroying two families and two lives that we can’t get back,” she told CBS 4’s Carey Codd.
On Thursday the Catronio and Ferrante families filed lawsuits against Mendoza and her boyfriend Federico Javier Reyes, who owns the car Mendoza was driving. Catronio’s attorney Brett Panter said he wants answers from the owners of Tijuana Taxi Co.
“If indeed the facts that you’re relaying to me are true that Kaila was drinking alcohol beverages at Tijauna Taxi Company or any other establishment that puts a big obligation on Tijuana Taxi,” Panter said. “It is illegal to serve minors alcoholic beverages and the reason it’s illegal is because the consequences are often grave.”
The search warrant also makes clear that traffic homicide investigators are aware of the “2 drunk to 2 care” tweet posted on Mendoza’s Twitter page just hours before the crash.
Tijuana Taxi Company released a statement to CBS 4 News. It says, “Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy. We are doing everything we can to cooperate with authorities in the investigation of this matter. All of our bartenders and servers undergo training with Responsible Vendors, a company that teaches the laws, liabilities and safety practices needed to work in an establishment where alcohol is served.”
The owners of the restaurant told me they do have surveillance cameras but the video gets recorded over every seven days and that the video from the night of November 16 is gone.