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Trial Resumes In DUI Manslaughter Of Miami Heat Dancer

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Mario Careaga (Source: CBS4)

Mario Careaga (Source: CBS4)

FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Testimony will resume Thursday in the trial of a man charged with DUI manslaughter in the death of a Miami Heat dancer.

Mario Careaga was heading west on Sunrise Boulevard in Ft. Lauderdale when he reportedly veered out of his lane and struck Nancy Lopez-Ruiz from behind in September 20010.

Lopez-Ruiz was parked on her motorcycle in the median where U.S. 1 and Sunrise Boulevard split when she was hit. According to Ft. Lauderdale Police, the force of the crash sent her body more than 130 feet in the air.

Over the past two days, jurors have heard gripping testimony from witnesses, police officers and Careaga’s life partner, Ray Stapleton, who was with him in the car the night of the accident.

Careaga, a Fort Lauderdale insurance executive, had blood alcohol levels of .24 percent and .23 percent that were measured in two samples after the crash, according to probable cause affidavit.

Defense lawyer David Bogenschutz has challenged the notion that Careaga could have been three times over the legal limit.

Stapleton testified that he and Careaga had been drinking at the Galleria Mall prior to the accident. He told the jury Careaga had two vodka cocktails and a part of a third. After leaving the party at the mall, Stapleton told the jury he saw the motorcycle in the median and warned Careaga to watch out.

After the crash Stapleton, tearfully told the jury he went to check on the woman lying in the road.

“I could see her soul had left her body,” Stapleton said. “And I began to pray.”

On Wednesday, Joane Frey, a Mayor’s Jewelry employee who sold Careaga a watch shortly before the accident, testified that she could smell alcohol on his breathe but he did not seem to be impaired, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Frey told the jury he spent about 40 minutes in the store and opened a credit account so he could buy a Carier watch. She said his eyes were not bloodshot and his speech was not slurred, according to the paper.

The jury was shown still photos from inside the Galleria Mall where Careaga was attending a party and allegedly drinking.

Bogenschutz represented former New York Yankess player Jim Leyritz when he was charged with DUI manslaughter for December 2007 crash in which Fredia Veitch was killed. But jurors disagreed and convicted Leyritz of the lesser charge of DUI.

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