Karlie Tomica is currently the most reviled person on Miami Beach. According to police, the Nikki Beach bartender and self-described "party princess" ran over chef Stefano Riccioletti outside his Collins Avenue eatery on Monday morning. As Riccioletti lay dying on the street, Tomica allegedly sped away in her car.
But a former co-worker of Tomica's says that the 20-year-old doesn't deserve the venom she's received in the week since the deadly hit-and-run.
"She's not some type of horrible person who did this on purpose," says Kristy Cumplido. "Some of the same people who are demonizing this girl are going to go out, get drunk, and drive themselves home this weekend."
The two women worked together for more than a year at a Miami hotel. Cumplido watched as Tomica, a Port St. Lucie native, got used to the Miami party scene.
Cumplido insists she isn't trying to defend her ex co-worker. Instead, she's simply disgusted with the knee-jerk reaction of news outlets more interested in vilifying Tomica than accurate reporting.
"Until all the facts are out there about her driving state and whether she was under the influence [of alcohol], people shouldn't judge her," Cumplido says. "If she was drunk, it makes her fleeing a little more understandable. If she's sober, it puts her character into question."
Cumplido says she has spoken to Tomica's fiance, who quickly deactivated Karlie's Facebook and Twitter accounts after the accident to avoid an outpouring of anger. "She is humiliated," Cumplido says of Tomica. "She feels horrible."
Cumplido says that the horrific accident has roots in Miami Beach's boozy restaurant culture. "It's a hard partying industry," she says. "Young kids come here for college and get a job at a bar or restaurant. It's such a common problem: they get DUIs and they drop out of school."
"Miami Beach is a cesspool for the bad behavior of all of these young kids," she says. "What they need is a wake-up call, not to be making fun of 'the dumb blond who hit a chef.'"
The message is sinking in for some, at least. Cumplido says many of her friends -- including several of Tomica's co-workers at Nikki Beach -- are having trouble sleeping since the accident. "When you work in the industry, you see how that could have been you" involved in a DUI accident, she says.
And while Tomica's good looks and naivete may have helped her get a job at Nikki Beach (despite little experience
and being too young to legally serve spirits*), it has also made her a media villain.
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"A lot of people are saying that she'll get off because she's a pretty blond white girl," Cumplido says. "But would reporters be chasing her if she weren't?"
Tomica has been charged with one felony count of leaving the scene of a deadly accident.