HYANNIS (CBS) – When a Cape Cod mother of two was killed in the prime of her life by a speeding drunk driver, it was the beginning of a heartbreaking case. But what happened next, made matters even worse.
An I-Team investigation reveals how the justice system failed a grieving family and let that drunk driver get away.
WBZ-TV I-Team reporter Kathy Curran reports
On the morning of May 9, 2009, Lynn Garland was driving down Stevens Street in Hyannis. That’s when police say Rodrigo Freitas was drunk behind the wheel, coming up Main Street at a high rate of speed, he slammed into her car.
“We’re just so heartbroken over everything that’s happened,” said her sister Debra Faria.
“Disbelief. Terrible, terrible sadness,” said her niece Katy Shanahan.
Freitas was charged with vehicular homicide and operating under the influence of liquor. The case was headed for trial until the 26-year-old, a citizen of Brazil, fled the country in August of last year.
Family members were shocked when they learned Freitas was gone. “I could not believe this had happened,” said Faria. “On top of everything else this was another slap in the face.”
In June, 2009, when Freitas was arraigned at Barnstable District Court, bail was left at only $2,000 cash, and prosecutors didn’t even ask the judge to take his passport away. The family was dismayed.
“Let’s put it this way, if it was their family, the bail wouldn’t have been $2,000, the passport would have been revoked,” Shanahan said.
Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said Freitas’ roots in the community convinced his office that he was not a flight risk.
“This was someone who had gone to high school here in Barnstable, who owned a business in Barnstable, who had no prior criminal record,” O’Keefe said.
But the I-Team’s investigation found those roots on Cape Cod weren’t very deep, and were uprooted quickly last summer.
Freitas sold Net Zone, his storefront computer service business in Hyannis. His parents and his brother returned to Brazil.
And Tiffany Lomasney, a Fall River woman and U.S. citizen who married Freitas in 2007, told the I-Team she lost track of Freitas not long after the wedding and now feels he used her. It was a marriage that would’ve helped Freitas as he sought naturalization.
“If the suggestion is that we should have asked the court to have him surrender his passport, I think that’s a fair criticism, and I think we should have done that,” O’Keefe admitted.
The district attorney has turned over what is now a fugitive case to the State Police, but the I-Team discovered another problem that’s spelled out in the extradition treaty between Brazil and the U.S. and in Brazil’s constitution.
“Citizens of each respective country cannot be extradited to the other country — United States to Brazil, Brazil to the United States — unless it’s a crime that involves drug trafficking,” said Tom Nolan, a former Boston police lieutenant and criminal justice professor who recently accepted a position with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Nolan said it’s “extremely unlikely” Freitas will ever land back in a Massachusetts courtroom.
The I-Team tracked Freitas on three social media web sites, where he says he’s living in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and lists more than 1,000 friends.
Seeing Freitas free and enjoying life is not sitting well with Lynn Garland’s family.
“She would not have wanted to ruin his life over something like this,” said Faria. “But justice did need to be served and it wasn’t.”
Freitas did not respond to our e-mails and internet messages, and his lawyer, Peter Lloyd, refused to talk with the I-Team, citing attorney-client privilege.
It’s worth noting that Lloyd is well known to prosecutors in the district attorney’s office. He worked there for 10 years as an assistant D.A.
Even though he faced serious charges, Freitas’ driver’s license was only taken away after family members complained to authorities.
Lynn Garland worked for several years for both the Barnstable and Dennis police departments.