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Family calls for justice in fatal crash after driver receives traffic citation

Posted at 9:44 PM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-24 09:24:36-04

WFTX — A heart attack, on May 2, 2021, robbed the world of Chef Nicholas Elmer.

"He was already deceased at home," said his fiance Alicia Gregoire.

But his family says the tragedy didn't end there.

Shortly after finding Nicholas and calling the police, they had to call Blaine Elmer, his father and next of kin.

"I said, 'Oh, I just need you to come help me with Charlotte today. I need you to come to my house as soon as you can.' I didn't tell him anything over the phone," said Gregoire.

They didn't tell him about Nicholas, because they just wanted him to make it to the house safely. But he never did.

Just 15 minutes after confirming he was on his way over, Blaine was involved in a deadly crash at the intersection of Skyline Boulevard and Trafalgar Parkway in Cape Coral.

He died, without ever knowing what happened to his son.

"How does this happen to two people? The same day literally hours apart and they are literally a part of our family. It's just not fair, it's like a sick joke in a way," said Gregoire.

Police reports from that day show, the other driver involved in the crash ran a red light.

"She was the reason the accident happened. She ran the red light. He did nothing wrong and he had no time to react," said Blaine's friend John Caltagirone

When you step back and think about what this family has lost, you can also understand their rage when they learned that the other driver in this case was given a traffic citation.

"Here it is, we have someone who has fought for our country, protected our communities and his life is being valued at a 260 dollar traffic violation," said Blaine's friend Keith Campbell.

"And then to plead not guilty on top of it. You might as well have said it never happened," said Caltagirone.

The family says they want to see a heavier sentence.

"I'm not here to ruin her life, I don't want that for her. But she has destroyed mine and something has to be done has to be done for Blaine so we're not going to let that go," said Gregoire.

"Vehicle manslaughter is what she should have been charged with," said Caltagirone.

FOX 4 spoke to the Cape Coral Police Department (CCPD) to better understand the charge.

"Our hands are tied with how the law is written," said CCPD Master Corporal Phill Mullen, "There is simply no state statute for a crash that involves a fatality unless you flee from the scene, you're impaired, of course, if you do it on purpose that's a whole different ball of wax, but it's an accident."

We also spoke to a local lawyer, Michael Beckman, who backed this up.

"In the state of Florida, if you have something where someone runs a red light, believe it or not, that is considered a non-criminal infraction, that is a civil infraction, that's not even criminal," he said.

He says in order to upgrade the charges to say reckless driving, CCPD would have to prove that the woman behind the wheel showed gross negligence, like driving drunk or texting and driving.

And based on their investigation, the police department says they couldn't prove any of those things. So right now her actions basically amount to "careless driving" under state law, which only comes with a citation.

It's an explanation that the family says isn't good enough.

"There's negligence involved. Someone didn't operate their vehicle properly. They ran a red light," said Campbell.

"She knows what she did. She knows she's guilty. She knows she was distracted in the moment," said Gregoire.

Beckman also tells FOX 4 that Blaine Elmer's case isn't an isolated one. He says he often has to explain this gray area of the law to grieving families and encourages them to call their state leaders to discuss changing it.

In the meantime, because that driver has pleaded not guilty in this case, she will have to appear in court. That appearance is set for July 1, 2021.

Blaine's friends and family say they plan to attend and hold a rally outside of the courthouse.

They have also started this petition, to call for stiffer penalties in the accident, and so far more than 500 people have signed it.

The other driver's lawyer released the following statement to FOX 4 in this case:

"Our law in Florida is very specific on when circumstances can qualify on criminal charges and when it's a traffic citation. CCPD investigated thoroughly and they made their decision to give her a traffic citation."