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CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami) – Hours after charges were dropped against a former Coral Springs police officer accused of vehicular manslaughter in the death of a 24-year-old woman, her mother speaks out.
In the early morning hours of July 16th, 2011, officer Peter Munoz and Jennifer Gutierrez were involved in a crash at LeJeune Road and Aledo Avenue in Coral Gables. Prosecutors claimed Munoz was traveling at a high rate of speed when Gutierrez attempted to make a turn in front of him. He was unable to avoid hitting her in time.
Gutierrez, a single mother and aspiring lawyer, was killed.
CBS4’s Marybel Rodriguez spoke with Jennifer’s mother, Aracelis Gutiérrez, from her house because she did not want to be in court. She said in Spanish, “until the last moment I thought he would be charged with something.”
She also said that she is very sad and the pain will never go away. She will have to live with it all her life but now has to focus on her granddaughter. Jennifer Gutiérrez’s daughter Mia was 4-years old when her mother died now her grandmother is raising her.
The defense attorney Alan Ross said, “What hasn’t been lost in all of this is the tragedy of this young girl dying in a fatal car accident. He still deals with that. His heart and mine and anybody would certainly go out to the victims family.”
Munoz was charged with vehicular homicide and DUI manslaughter and according to a toxicology report, Munoz’s blood-alcohol level was .229, which is more than three times the legal limit of .08. He pleaded not guilty and was released on bond.
His lawyer was able to get the blood sample suppressed so the DUI manslaughter charge was dropped. In that instance, there was a technical issue with the search warrant and there was no legal basis for the blood to be drawn. So the judge decided to throw out that key piece of evidence.
The vehicular manslaughter charge, however, remained.
During a hearing Wednesday, prosecutors pointed to an appeals court ruling in a similar case in which they found that the defendant’s driving pattern was not sufficient under the law to be considered reckless.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s Sally Matson said the family was disappointed by the outcome.
“It was a very painful decision for them. The fact that the defendant had a blood alcohol content of almost three times the legal limit and that the case, the blood, was thrown out which rendered the case impossible to proceed upon,” said Matson.
Coral Springs Police say Munoz had only been a patrol officer for the department for 5 months before he was terminated.
Jennifer Gutiérrez’s mother said she does not plan to appeal.
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