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Driver in fatal ’09 crash pleads guilty
Wilson County Sheriff Joe D. Tackitt Jr. (left) and Cpl. Javier Reyes of the Texas Department of Public Safety Highway Patrol survey the remains of a wrecked 1994 Honda Accord on June 8, 2009. Three of the vehicle’s occupants died in a crash the day before.
WCN FILE PHOTO
The fate of 24-year-old Hector Esqueda of San Antonio now rests with 81st Judicial District Court Judge Donna Rayes, following Esqueda’s Feb. 27 plea of guilty to three counts of intoxication manslaughter. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 for each count, when he returns to court for sentencing April 18 at 1:30 p.m.
Esqueda entered his plea prior to jury selection for his trial. He signed a written plea admonishment in which he admitted responsibility for his role in a June 7, 2009, crash in which his three passengers died.
Audrey Louis, assistant district attorney for the 81st Judicial District, said in exchange for Esqueda’s plea, the prosecution agreed to stay silent as to its recommendation for his punishment. The prosecution also agreed to waive seeking a “deadly weapon finding,” which often occurs in intoxication manslaughter cases involving a motor vehicle.
“That waiver only means he could be eligible for parole before serving 50 percent of his sentence,” Louis said.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) reports contained in the District Clerk’s case file, Esqueda was the driver of a 1994 Honda Accord traveling northbound on U.S. 181 south of Poth. At approximately 3:25 a.m., the Honda crossed the centerline of the highway and collided with a southbound tractor-trailer -- owned by San Antonio-based H.E. Butt Grocery Co. -- driven by Steven Freeman, now 42, of Corpus Christi. The force of the impact split the Honda into at least three pieces and ejected all four occupants.
Dying as a result of multiple injuries caused by the crash were Priscilla Montoya, 20; Orlando Brown, 18; and Kara Denkewalter, 20, all of San Antonio.
Esqueda, who the DPS reports allege was the only one wearing a seat belt at the time of the impact, suffered multiple injuries including fractures to his left clavicle, arm, and shoulder. He was flown via AirLife helicopter to University Hospital in San Antonio. In addition to being treated for his injuries, Esqueda’s toxicology records indicated a blood-alcohol content of 0.157 -- almost twice the state’s legal limit of 0.08.
The investigation following the crash also determined that Esqueda was driving without automobile insurance and that his license had been suspended for the third time one month before.
Freeman, who suffered minor injuries, was transported via ambulance to the Connally Memorial Medical Center in Floresville, where a blood test revealed no presence of drugs or alcohol, according to the DPS reports.
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