A woman accused of driving while drunk and without a license and killing two women in a wrong-way crash watched from jail Tuesday as the victims' siblings talked about their losses.
Kayla Maria Mendoza, 21, was given a $600,000 bond during her first Broward court appearance.
"The court is concerned that she knew she shouldn't be driving," Broward Judge John "Jay" Hurley said.
He referred to court documents that alleged Mendoza's blood-alcohol levels were above the legal limit and that she did not have a valid license at 1:45 a.m. on Nov. 17, 2013.
That's when Kaitlyn Nicole Ferrante and Marisa Caran Catronio, both 21 and from Coral Springs, were traveling west on the Sawgrass Expressway in a Toyota Camry.
Mendoza's Hyundai Sonata was driving east in the westbound lanes and struck the Camry head on, just west of University Drive in Coral Springs, according to the Florida Highway Patrol and court documents.
Catronio died at the scene; Ferrante was flown to a hospital and died a day later.
During Tuesday's hearing, Mendoza used a wheelchair and appeared to be wiping her face, as the judge and the crash victims' relatives spoke via a jailhouse-courtroom video link.
Ashley Ferrante,19, Kaitlyn Ferrante's sister, told Hurley, "She wanted to be a nurse and save lives."
Said Jesse Catronio about his sister, Marisa Catronio, "I'm just here, trying to be her voice. Kayla was free for five months, able to be with her family, and doesn't deserve a bond."
Mendoza's lawyer, John Trevena, of Largo, said by phone during the hearing that based on his preliminary investigation, a defense of involuntary intoxication may be made on her behalf.
"She may be another victim in this case," Trevena said.
Hurley said a tweet posted prior to the crash that investigators allege came from Mendoza's Twitter account and said "2 drunk 2 care" could contradict such a defense.
After the hearing, Trevena said Mendoza, a former sales clerk at a cellphone store, was scheduled for surgery on her right leg. He said she also endured a traumatic brain injury, a broken collar bone and spent approximately a month in a hospital.
"In all likelihood, she'll be permanently disabled," Trevena said.
FHP charged Mendoza with two counts of DUI manslaughter while impaired, two counts of DUI manslaughter with an unlawful blood-alcohol level, two counts of vehicular homicide and two counts of driving without a license causing death.
Attorney Jamie Finizio Bascombe represents the Ferrante family and asked that no bond be granted, but Hurley said the law required him to give one. He ordered house arrest for Mendoza, except for when she needs medical care.
Trevena said he did not believe Mendoza will be freed on bond soon, because Hurley ordered that the bond must be collateralized against property of a similar value.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun