Collision involving Jim Leyritz shattered family’s dreams

Plantation, Fla. – Fredia Ann Veitch dreamed of having a third baby.

Several weeks ago, fresh from a family vacation in Phoenix, the 30-year-old mother of two decided she would quit the late shift tending bar at the Original Steakhouse in Fort Lauderdale at the end of 2007 and spend more time at home.

“We were getting ready to start having another child,” said her husband of five years, Jordan Veitch.

The Plantation couple’s dreams were dashed early Friday when Fredia Veitch’s SUV was rammed in the side, police said, at the intersection of Southwest Second Street and Southwest Seventh Avenue in Fort Lauderdale, near the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

Veitch was ejected from the car and declared dead minutes later.

Former New York Yankee slugger Jim Leyritz, the driver of the other vehicle, was charged with DUI manslaughter, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Leyritz, 44, of Davie, also was charged with a first-degree misdemeanor count of damaging property while driving under the influence. He did not answer his cell phone Saturday, and his voice mail box was full and not accepting messages.

Saturday afternoon, Leyritz was seen leaving a Hollywood building that is home to several law firms, but he did not speak to a reporter as he got into a brown Hummer.

By midday Saturday Veitch’s family had retained an attorney, who announced that he planned to file a lawsuit against the former major league baseball player for compensatory, and possibly punitive, damages.

“This is a tragic accident, an accident that took the life of a young woman with two beautiful young children and a young husband,” said Richard Abramowitz. He said his Sunrise-based firm, Abramowitz & Pomerantz, was conducting an independent investigation of the accident.

For about 10 minutes Saturday afternoon, Jordan Veitch stood outside his dark beige, one-story home in Plantation’s Beaumont Estates with Abramowitz and David O’Keefe, Fredia Veitch’s first husband and father of her 13-year-old daughter, Kayla O’Keefe.

Jordan Veitch, 29, described his wife as a beautiful woman who “always wanted everyone around her to be happy.” He said their son, Julian, had been asking a lot of questions since Friday: Why hasn’t Mommy come home? Where was the crash? Who’s going to take care of me?

“I had a 5-year-old who cried himself to sleep last night and has a lot of questions,” said Jordan Veitch. “He is aware that she’s gone and it is affecting him deeply.”

Leyritz, who had turned 44 on Thursday, was released from the Broward County Jail on Friday afternoon after posting an $11,000 bond. He was driving his red Ford Expedition SUV when he passed a red light and crashed into the driver’s side of Fredia Veitch’s green Mitsubishi Montero SUV, police said.

Fredia Veitch was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the car, police said. She was pronounced dead at Broward General Medical Center.

Jordan Veitch did not comment on why his wife may not have been wearing a seat belt. When asked what he would say to Leyritz if he had the opportunity, he replied: “Those are words I can’t say right now. I’m very angry … I lost my wife and [Leyritz] was out of jail in nine hours. That makes no sense.”

A career .264 hitter, Leyritz earned about $10.8 million during his 10 years in the major leagues. In addition to playing catcher, he also was an infielder. The Yankees signed him as an amateur free agent in August 1985 after seeing him at the University of Kentucky. Leyritz made his major league debut in June 1990.

Leyritz also spent time with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres. In 2006, he told the New York Post that he had used human growth hormones in 2000 to speed recovery from a shoulder injury and make the New York Mets team. He retired after the 2000 season.

Most recently, he has worked as an analyst for and other media outlets.

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