SUNNY ISLES BEACH, Fla. – This holiday season will be difficult for the Pelleg family, as a widow does her best to cope with the loss of her dedicated 34-year-old husband. Detectives said the man responsible is in jail.
Amir Pelleg, a father of two and successful real estate lawyer, was killed in Sunny Isles Beach. His wife, Zulma Guillot, and their daughters, 2-year-old Aviva and 6-year-old Ariella, were injured but survived.
"I just tell them to pray and that their daddy is in their heart," Guillot said. "Emotionally is very challenging for them to understand that they won't see their father again."
Joseph Jacob Franco, 27, was arrested on Tuesday. He was driving a Honda Odyssey-- likely under the influence of "whippets" inhalant drug -- when he veered off Collins Avenue onto the sidewalk, and ran over the Pelleg family in July near 174th Street, prosecutors said.
Amir Pelleg, of the Kayne Anderson Real Estate and the Beth Torah Synagogue in North Miami Beach, "dedicated his life to making [his daughters] feel loved, safe and happy, and worked to afford them every opportunity in the world," said Shannon Toher, a family friend.
After spending months in house arrest, Franco faces a charge of tampering with physical evidence and he is being held at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center, according to Miami-Dade Corrections records.
Two witnesses pulled over to help the victims and others told detectives they saw Franco get out of the car while talking to someone on his cellphone, disposing of something and casually walking away. He waited for authorities to arrive.
Fire rescue personnel took the girls to Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood.
An investigator removed a duffel bag from the garbage can, which contained 12 used nitrous oxide metal cannisters that are used as an inhalant drug to get high, authorities said.