Not long after his Lamborghini Murcielago plowed into an 82-year-old Uber driver, Roger Wittenberns made it clear to police that he had been driving the speed limit.
“At my age, you buy a Lamborghini because it looks cool. Everybody knows it goes fast, there’s no question,” the 61-year-old multimillionaire told police, according to court records. “But you don’t have to be a jackass and go fast, so I was going maybe 30 [mph].”
Neither police nor witnesses backed up his story.
Police accused Wittenberns of driving at least 75 mph, after hours of drinking, before he hit and killed J. Gerald Smith, who had been .
The interviews with Wittenberns and witnesses are contained in documents newly released by Palm Beach County prosecutors. They provide the most detailed account yet of the crash Sept. 21, 2016, on Federal Highway at Northeast First Street in downtown Delray.
After eating a late lunch of Oysters Rockefeller and knocking back a few Long Island iced teas, Wittenberns and his girlfriend jumped into their yellow sports cars — he was in the Lamborghini; she was in a Porsche, according to police.
The pair sped north on in Delray Beach, according to a police report.
One witness, Taylor Lanigan, told police she saw the cars tearing down the street. The posted speed limit is 35 mph, records show.
“I looked southbound, and they are these two yellow cars,” Lanigan said. “And they are going really fast and I actually, like, honked because I was frustrated that they were going so fast.”
Vince Sanders said he leapt from his bicycle and ran into a yard to avoid getting hit.
“That car that hit that truck was going fast. I’d say they were going at least about 80,” he told police.
At the moment of impact, the underneath the oncoming Buick SUV, eviscerating the wheel assembly, rim, tire and bumper clean from the Buick, based on police video from the scene.
The force from the crash sent the SUV spinning. The Lamborghini rammed into a parked car with enough force to push it backward into another parking space.
The Porsche stopped just before the intersection, surveillance video of the collision shows. Wittenberns’ girlfriend, Patty Ann McQuiggin, who is now his wife, paused there for 10 seconds then turned right, the surveillance footage shows.
A moment later, the . People rushed to help. When police arrived, they found both drivers on the ground.
Smith, a retired real estate agent and part-time Uber driver, was pronounced dead upon arrival at Delray Medical Center.
At the hospital, doctors stitched up Wittenberns’ head. His face was lacerated, his legs bleeding.
Police drew his blood less than an hour after the crash, showing a 0.15 blood-alcohol level, nearly double Florida’s legal limit of .08, the arrest report said.
The speed of the Lamborghini and Wittenberns’ blood test have been “taken out of context,” Wittenberns’ attorney told Sun Sentinel news partner WPEC-CBS12 on Tuesday.
“This case was a horrible, horrible tragedy,” the attorney, Marc Shiner, told the station. “Unfortunately somebody passed away and another man who worked all his life and became very successful is on trial for his life now.”
Police tried to interview Wittenberns the night of the accident, but he initially refused, saying he had blood in his mouth and needed water.
Just after midnight, the police department’s lead accident investigator asked to interview him again, court records show. The second time he accepted.
“As long as we understand I am in horrible pain and I’ve been given medication here and if I don’t get the times dead on …,” Wittenberns said, according to a police recording of the interview.
Wittenberns retired in 2005 from the Lady of America fitness club chain, which he founded. He moved to a $2 million home in Delray Beach in 2014 after selling his Fort Lauderdale mansion — on Harborage Isle — for $6.5 million.
Before the crash happened that day, he woke up, went to the doctor for some back injections and then got a ride to pick up his Lamborghini from a body shop, he said, according to the police interview.
He sat down for lunch with McQuiggin at City Oyster House on Atlantic Avenue in Delray, records show.
He first told police he had an iced tea with lunch. What kind of iced tea? asked Officer Hannes Schoeferle.
“I believe it was a Long Island iced tea,” he said.
A duplicate of Wittenberns’ check showed him and McQuiggin had “3 Long Island Iced Tea, 3 Cosmo, 3 Goose 4 oz” at the table before moving to the bar area for another Long Island iced tea, a vodka martini and another “Goose 4 oz,” the report said.
He also told police he takes blood thinners and Xanax, records show.
Video surveillance from the restaurant showed the pair left just before 4:30 p.m.
just before 4:33 p.m., authorities said.
“The next thing you know, a car comes out of God knows where on the right-hand side, crosses the street. It’s in a complete blind spot for me,” Wittenberns told the officer in the interview. “There’s a car in front of me and I could not stop or slam on the brakes or anything.”
The way it looked is that Wittenberns had the right of way, Schoeferle said to him, records show. The other driver had a stop sign and entered Wittenberns’ path of travel, Schoeferle said.
But Schoeferle continued, “It looks like a higher speed crash than 30 miles an hour, to be honest with you.”
Toward the end of the interview, the investigator told Wittenberns that Smith, the man whose vehicle he hit, was dead.
“I want to also tell you, the gentleman that was involved in the crash, the other one in the Buick, he passed away.”
“Oh, no. Oh, no,” Wittenberns replied. “Oh Jesus. You didn’t tell me that officer.”
In June, Wittenberns turned himself in to face the charges. He has to DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide and DUI injury. He’s on house arrest awaiting trial.
Eloisa Smith, Smith’s widow, sued him in a wrongful-death lawsuit, which was settled for an undisclosed amount, according to Shiner, Wittenberns’ attorney.
Shiner said experts will be reviewing the evidence over the next few months. He said he doesn’t want Wittenberns to be prejudged because of his wealth.
“I think people are prejudiced against someone driving a fancy sports car and assuming that because you have money and are driving a fancy sports car … the more likely you are of committing a crime.”
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