Tillerson urged to push Brazil to return Boca woman to face charges

For nearly nine years, 72-year-old Martha Wright has tried to persuade Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg to bring her daughter’s accused killer to justice.

Unfortunately, for Wright, the long arm of the law doesn’t reach to Brazil, where Boca Raton resident Daniela Torres is believed to have fled after being charged in a 2008 crash on Interstate 95 in Boca that killed Wright’s 44-year-old daughter, Deborah Peterson, and James Andrew Carr, 42, who also lived in Boca.

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“Nine years! Nine years!” Wright said Friday. “A lot of wrong stuff has been done. All she had to do was catch a plane to Brazil.”

This week, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings tried to help the Pompano Beach woman’s cause by seeking the aid of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In a letter, the Delray Beach Democrat asked the nation’s top diplomat to pressure Brazilian officials to extradite Torres so she can be tried in Palm Beach County Circuit Court on two counts of DUI manslaughter and two counts of vehicular manslaughter.

“This miscarriage of justice is perpetuated by Brazil as it continues its misguided and bankrupt diplomatic stance to not extradite its nationals to the United States,” Hastings wrote. “A justice (is) owed to the victims of Ms. Torres’ crimes as much as it is to their respective families.”

It isn’t the first time Hastings has written such a letter. He wrote a similar missive several years ago to then-Secretary of State John Kerry.

Hastings also isn’t the only elected official pushing the state department to figure out a way to extradite Torres. Mike Edmondson, a spokesman for Aronberg, said Aronberg’s office has written federal officials asking for help.

“The problem is Brazil is one of the most difficult countries to extradite from,” Edmondson said.

While Brazil has had an extradition treaty with the United States since 1964, its constitution bars the extradition of Brazilian nationals. It is believed that Torres was born in Brazil.

Long a haven for Nazi war criminals, mobsters and disgraced dictators, many have successfully avoided prosecution by fleeing to Brazil. Former Boynton Beach police officer David Britto successfully evaded prosecution on a charge of intent to distribute methamphetamine in 2011 by returning to his homeland. His mother, who remained here, was prosecuted for helping him.

While Wright said she understands the obstacles now facing prosecutors, she insists the case was mishandled from the start. Torres wasn’t ordered to turn over her passport when she was released from jail on $50,000 bond.

While acknowledging such a requirement is normal, Edmondson there was no indication Torres would flee. Arrested a year after the crash on I-95 at Palmetto Park Road, she stayed in contact with authorities until August 2012, when she failed to appear for a mandatory drug test. That’s when prosecutors learned she had left the country.

While the odds are against her, Wright said she isn’t giving up. She has held several rallies to solicit support. She has also sent packages of information to U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, who represent Florida. She is asking Gov. Rick Scott to get involved.

“It was not a hard case,” she said. “It was a wrongdoing case.”

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