‘His joy ride caused 3 people to lose their lives.’ Miami judge ups bond on suspected car thief

·3 min read

A Hialeah man accused of killing three people, including a teacher, in a high-speed car crash will have to post a hefty bond of more than $800,000 before he can get out of jail to await trial.

A Miami-Dade judge on Friday ordered Rodney Rodriguez, 24, to pay an $805,000 bond to get out of jail after he was arrested and charged with causing the crash that killed a teacher, her husband and her mother on Sunset Drive last month. Rodriguez, who had been hospitalized since the Aug. 31 wreck, was arrested late Thursday on three counts of vehicular homicide for the crash.

Police and prosecutors say Rodriguez was driving a stolen Range Rover and had been fleeing police — hitting speeds of over 100 miles per hour — when he crashed into a 2017 Kia Forte near the intersection of Sunset Drive and Southwest 92nd Avenue on Aug. 31.

During his first-appearance hearing Friday morning, Circuit Judge Mindy Glazer significantly increased the standard bond amount, saying Rodriguez “posed an extreme danger to the community.”

“His joy ride caused three people to lose their lives,” Glazer said.

The crash killed 51-year-old Adalberto Cereijo, his wife, 49-year-old Karina Diaz, who worked at The Creative Learning Center in Kendall, and her mother, Elena Diaz, 75.

Rodriguez was taken from the crash to Kendall Regional Medical Center, where he underwent surgery. He is now facing three charges of vehicular homicide, fleeing police and grand-theft auto.

Investigators say the incident began on the Palmetto Expressway, where a South Miami police officer spotted Rodriguez speeding at more than 100 mph, according to the arrest affidavit. When they exited the expressway onto Southwest 72nd Street, the officer tried to pull Rodriguez over, but he took off and went west on Sunset Drive.

Rodriguez, in an interview with police, later admitted he’d “never driven a car like that” and called the Range Rover a “bullet,” according to a Miami-Dade police arrest report.

Rodriguez went through the red light at Southwest 87th Avenue and continued speeding, according to the report. The officer stopped pursuing him and made a U-turn. Moments later, Rodriguez crashed into the rear end of the Kia at the intersection of Sunset Drive and Southwest 92nd Avenue, killing the family of three.

The force of the crash ejected the older Diaz, who was sitting in the backseat. Rodriguez’s Range Rover then “rotated” several times, taking out several palm trees before stopping in the middle of Sunset Drive, according to the report.

The three “are in their graves because he went for a joy ride in the SUV,” Miami-Dade prosecutor Laura Adams said during Friday’s hearing.

Adams also said a toxicology report will likely be available early next week. “It doesn’t appear he was impaired by alcohol but he may have had some drugs in his system,” Adams said.

Rodriguez was cited in May 2017 for driving without a license plate, and speeding. He was granted a withhold of adjudication, which means it did not show up as a conviction. Later that year, he was also convicted of careless driving after crashing in Hialeah.

His license was suspended for several months that year after failing to pay fines associated with the tickets, records show.