Shirley Coto of Deerfield Beach was arrested last Sunday for 22 criminal charges that include DUI, manslaughter, and child neglect. Coto, 40, allegedly drove a vehicle with four unrestrained children inside while impaired without a valid driver’s license. She got into a car accident that killed one of her passengers, six-year-old Ruby Meza.
Coto was booked into Broward Main Jail and had a brief court hearing on Monday where a Broward judge read all of her charges. Her hearing was rescheduled to an unspecified date to give her time to notify her attorney to attend. It is unclear if the judge set bail for Coto.
According to the arrest report, the alleged fatal crash occurred on May 23 last year. Coto was driving a friend’s Nissan Ultima without permission, a valid driver’s license, insurance. or registration to a liquor store on West Hillsboro Boulevard. There were four children without seat belts on inside the vehicle, reports say.
Of Coto’s four passengers, one was her 11-year-old daughter and three shared the last name Meza. Coto’s relationship with the Meza children is still not clear.
As she was driving out of the liquor store’s parking lot, Coto allegedly crashed into a Ford Ranger. All of the children were seriously injured and Ruby Meza, 6, was flown to Broward Healthy Medical Center, where she later died.
News sources say both drivers are being held responsible for the accident. The other driver was identified as Marcelo G. Verly also of Deerfield Beach. Verly, 24, was traveling at almost 65 mph in a 40-mph zone when he crashed into Coto’s vehicle. He has not been arrested or charged, according to reports.
According to investigators, the accident occurred after Coto’s second trip to the liquor store. Video surveillance in the parking lot reportedly shows her entering the store a few hours earlier. Coto purportedly told investigators that she picked up the children from school and made her second stop at the store to buy two bottles of scotch.
She allegedly said that she did not open the bottles or drink any alcohol before the accident, but she did admit to “having a couple of drinks earlier in the day.” Coto’s blood alcohol level five hours after the crash was reportedly 0.9, just slightly above the Florida’s 0.8 legal limit.