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Man Sentenced To 15 Years In Prison For Heat Dancer’s Death

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maggieheadshot Maggie Newland
Maggie Newland is a reporter at CBS4. She arrived at the station ...
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South Florida Crime

FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A man convicted in the death of a Miami Heat dancer was sentenced to 15 years in prison Monday, but he’ll be released on bond pending an appeal.

In March, a jury found Mario Careaga guilty of DUI manslaughter in the 2010 death of Miami Heat dancer Nancy Lopez-Ruiz.

Fifteen years is the maximum sentence allowed.  The judge said the fact that Mario Careaga’s blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit played a role in the sentencing.

The courtroom was packed Monday with family of Lopez-Ruiz as well as supporters of Careaga.

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.

Careaga said that he was trying to avoid a dangerous driver behind him when he swerved and hit Lopez-Ruiz.

Prosecutors said there was no dangerous driver behind him. 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.

Lopez-Ruiz’s familyasked for the maximum sentence of 15 years while Careaga’s family and friends said he’s had a spotless record and deserved mercy.

The judge granted Careaga a $100,000 bond, meaning he can be free pending an appeal.   His lawyer said that’s standard procedure because Careaga has no prior criminal record and strong community ties.

The sister of Lopez-Ruiz says she’s satisfied with the 15 year sentence, but disappointed that Careaga will be released on bond.

Marjorie Lacy said, “We’ve waited so long to have justice for her, which we have received based on the sentencing.  The jury found him guilty but he still gets to go home and we don’t have my sister.”

Careaga’s lawyer expects him to bond out of jail by Tuesday.

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