Joseph Franco of Aventura, Florida was arrested on March 27 for allegedly being high on nitrous oxide when he ran over and killed Amir Pelleg, and injured his wife and daughters.
Franco, 27, is charged with DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide, three counts of reckless driving with serious bodily injury, and three counts of DUI causing serious injury. He was ordered held on $77,500 bond. The press did not name an attorney for him.
According to the police report, the incident occurred in July 2018 off Collins Avenue near 174th Street. Franco was reportedly driving a Honda Odyssey when he drove onto the sidewalk and ran over the Pelleg family.
Pelleg, 34, died in the crash. His wife, Zulma Guillot Pelleg, was left in a coma, which she has since awaken from. Their two daughters, ages 2 and 6, were also injured.
Witnesses reportedly told police that after the crash, Franco got out of his vehicle, appeared to be talking to someone on his phone, and then threw a duffel bag into a nearby garbage can. Police retrieved the bag and claim to have found 21 canisters of nitrous oxide stashed inside, a dozen of which were used.
The canisters were adult-themed with labels that read “XXX Platinum Triple Refined Cream Chargers.” They had purportedly been bought by Franco at a smoke shop in North Miami-Dade, and forensic testing has confirmed that they contained illegal amounts of nitrous oxide.
Investigators initially charged Franco with tampering with evidence and distributing nitrous oxide, but they now believe Franco had inhaled nitrous oxide while driving because his vehicle’s black box showed that he didn’t brake or even steer before he struck the Pelleg family, the report indicates.
Franco had been placed on house arrest as he awaited trail on the evidence tampering and distribution charges, but the information from the black box has led prosecutors to enhance his charges and include DUI manslaughter, DUI causing injury, and vehicular homicide charges.
“After all this time, I still haven’t fully processed that he is not coming back,” Guillot Pelleg told Local 10 news. “It’s very hard for me to see my family destroyed, so for me, nothing will be fair enough.”
Driving under the influence is a serious problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 29 people in the U.S. are killed daily in car crashes that involve drunk drivers. In 2016 alone, drunk driving resulted in over 10,400 deaths, accounting for 28% of all traffic-related deaths in the country.
Florida has passed some of the toughest DUI laws in the nation and law enforcement agents are required to enforce those laws with a zero tolerance standard.
South Florida DUI Attorney