"Party Princess" Hit-and-Run Driver Released From Prison After Three Years
Karlie Tomica is now free after serving three years for a horrific South Beach hit-and-run that drew national attention.
photos: Miami-Dade Corrections/Twitter
Update 11 a.m.: Mark Shapiro, Tomica's attorney, says she's grateful to be home and "enthusiastic" about speaking to young people about her crime. Shapiro's interview has been added to the end of this piece.
On January 29, 2013, Nikki Beach bartender and self-described "party princess" Karlie Tomica slammed her car into a pedestrian on Collins Avenue. Stefano Riccioletti, a 49-year-old chef and father of three who was walking to his job at the Shore Club, died on the spot.
Tomica's story went viral after she fled the scene in her blood-spattered car, trying to lose a Good Samaritan who followed her back to her apartment. When police finally caught up to her, her blood alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit.
Now Tomica is free again. On Christmas Day, she walked out of prison after serving a little more than three years of a four-year sentence for DUI manslaughter, according to a Florida Department of Corrections inmate database.
As part of a 2013 plea agreement, Tomica will also serve two years of house arrest and 15 years of probation. She now lists a Port St. Lucie address as her residence. Tomica, who was sentenced in August 2013 — just four days shy of her 21st birthday — is now 24 years old.
Her attorney didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.
Tomica's grisly crime spread around the globe in early 2013 as details emerged of the horrific crash that killed Riccioletti, a well-loved chef. After Tomica's car slammed into Riccioletti, a witness told police the victim's body flew through "the air and [landed] in the driveway of a nearby hotel."
Jairo Fuentes, a Good Samaritan who happened to be passing by, followed Tomica as she sped away to her Collins Avenue apartment. When he caught up to her, the Miami Herald reported in 2013, her blond hair was stained with blood and bits of Riccioletti's flesh.
When Miami Beach Police arrested her, her blood alcohol content was an astounding .225. In August 2013, Tomica agreed to plead guilty to DUI manslaughter.
Ironically, Nikki Beach, the club that employed Tomica, was founded as a tribute to a victim of a 1997 DUI-related crash. In 2009, 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 . 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.
Riccioletti's son, Jacopo, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Nikki Beach and Tomica, alleging the club let the 20-year-old illegally consume alcohol before the crash. That case remains open in Miami-Dade civil court, though a petition for a settlement was filed earlier this year.
Tomica's driver's license has been revoked for good, and she must also serve "more than 1,000 hours of community service and speak to students, at least five times a year, about the morning she killed Riccioletti," according to the Herald.
Update: Shapiro, who represented Tomica in her criminal trial, says she's pleased to be heading home.
"Naturally, I'm very very happy for Karlie and her family that she's back home now. It's been a long road for her, and it continues to be a long and never-ending road for the Riccioletti family," Shapiro says. "She's enthusiastic about talking about her story and sharing it with young people."
Tomica already filmed interviews for an anti-drunk driving documentary for the Dori Slosberg Foundation, Shapiro says.
"She's very hopeful she can turn this tragedy into a way to educate young people," Shapiro says. "She's the perfect messenger for them because she's still so young and has such youthful looks."
Correction: This story originally incorrectly reported on where Tomica will serve her house arrest.
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