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Trial starts in 4 crash deaths

Published Aug. 27, 2005

Everyone in the courtroom listened intently, waiting for Miqucalena Zorbas to tell about the car crash.

She could remember telling her niece, Tabitha Brooks, to put on her seat belt but that was it. She does remember her sons, but "I just don't remember them being in the car," she said.

Anthony Zorbas, 14, and Robert Zorbas, 10, died because of the fiery wreck along with 4-year-old Deziree Pozzi on March 2, 2001.

Nicholas Demerie is charged with four counts of vehicular homicide for the crash and two counts of reckless driving with injury for the damage done to Brooks and Miqucalena Zorbas. Demerie's wife, Ann Marie Demerie, also died.

Prosecutors say the 56-year-old Demerie was racing his 1995 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 east on State Road 54, trying to catch a red Corvette when he lost control of the car and crossed into the westbound lanes near Old 54, hitting Zorbas' Plymouth Caravelle.

Defense attorney Curtis Crider told the jury in his opening argument Wednesday that they would find inconsistencies in testimony from the prosecution's witnesses.

A Florida Highway Patrol investigator estimated Demerie's speed at 86 mph. An independent forensic engineer said he believes Demerie was going 88 mph. The speed limit there is 45.

The defense attorneys tried to poke holes in those calculations, saying the car's traction control might be to blame for Demerie's loss of handling of the vehicle. "This is a tragic accident _ a tragedy for everyone," he said. "But you're going to need to make the determination of when an accident becomes a crime," he said.

Since the accident, Zorbas, 39, said she has to concentrate on each word before she says it. After each question in the opening day of Demerie's trial, she waited, thinking of the words to describe her injuries.

There's the memory loss, the speech impediment, the titanium rods in her bones and the scars on her face from the glass and metal. Her femur _ the thigh bone _ broke in six places and her pelvis broke in four. Both feet were shattered, her right arm was broken and her teeth needed to be replaced. She suffers from constant migraines, won't drive a car and takes medications for her physical pain and Xanax for her anxiety daily. But Zorbas said she did not take those pills on the morning of the trial. "I wanted to give 100 percent honesty and I didn't want to be affected," she told the court.

Brooks, now 16, testified that she also doesn't remember the crash. She woke up to the sound of the horn and saw Zorbas' head against the steering wheel. The trial continues today.

Miqucalena Zorbas holds pictures of her sons Anthony Zorbas, 14, and Robert Zorbas, 10, and family friend Deziree Pozzi, 4, as she and her boyfriend Vito Tambasco, right, listen to testimony Wednesday during the trial of Nicholas Demerie, 56, who has been charged in the fiery March 2001 crash.