Guilty verdict upheld in Miami Heat dancer death trial

By Peter Burke, Managing Editor, pburke@local10.com
John Turchin, Crime Specialist, jturchin@local10.com
Published On: Mar 27 2014 02:25:00 PM EDT
Updated On: Mar 27 2014 11:00:00 PM EDT

A judge says she sees no evidence of prejudice to suggest that Mario Careaga was found guilty in the crash that killed a Miami Heat dancer because he was gay.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -

A guilty verdict has been upheld for a man convicted of causing a crash that killed a 22-year-old Miami Heat dancer in 2010.

Mario Careaga, 46, was convicted Wednesday on both counts of DUI manslaughter in the Sept. 10, 2010, crash that killed Nancy Lopez-Ruiz, who was on her motorcycle when she was struck by Careaga's Mercedes Benz.

However, shortly after the verdict was read, Judge Ilona Holmes withheld the verdict amid allegations of juror misconduct.

Careaga's reprieve was brief.

"There is no evidence that would suggest that he was convicted by this jury because of his sexual preference," Holmes ruled Thursday.

Holmes rejected claims that the verdict was influenced by one of the six jurors because he was prejudice against gay people and made derogatory remarks about Careaga.

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Nancy Lopez-Ruiz was a Miami Heat dancer when she was killed in a crash in 2010.

For the second time in as many days, Careaga was handcuffed, but this time he was fingerprinted and taken to jail while he awaits sentencing.

Careaga's life partner of 23 years was in court for the decision.

"Nobody wanted this situation," Ray Stapleton said. "Bad things happen to good people."

For Adela Lopez-Ruiz, justice has finally arrived for her daughter.

"He's going back with his family one day," she said. "My daughter's gone."

Stapleton said he does not harbor any resentment and called the Lopez-Ruiz family "good people."

Lopez-Ruiz was about to begin her first season as a Miami Heat dancer when she was killed.

Careaga faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced May 15.

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