HPD: Man charged in fatal crash fled the US

July 14, 2010 3:34:26 PM PDT
The Harris County District Attorney's Office says it is working to extradite a man they say ran a red light while drunk and killed three teenagers, then fled the country. Questions remain about why the suspect was not arrested at the scene of the crash in the first place. Houston police supervisors are backing up what their officers did in the field on Friday, but are saying that it is a shared decision process with the DA's Office as well as the officers.

Saying they work as a team with the DA's Office, Houston police did not waver on Wednesday from their decision Friday night not to arrest Sajan Timalshina.

"I stand by their ability to make those decisions, but it's hard when you look back and you see that he did leave," said Capt. Bill Staney with HPD Vehicular Crimes. "Knowing what I know now, we should have put him in jail."

Houston police answered a barrage of questions wondering why Timalshina, 25, was able to lie to police and evade arrest by fleeing to his home country of Nepal.

"Knowing what we know now, the best decision would have been to arrest him and hold onto him. Given what they had at the time, it could've gone either way. It turned out badly," Capt. Staney said.

Experts say Timalshina had a blood alcohol level of nearly twice the legal limit when he crashed into an SUV carrying seven teenagers, killing three of them.

Avianca Cortez, 13, and Rashaunda Raleigh, 17, were ejected from the SUV and died at the scene. A third victim, Detrihanna Davis, 13, died later that night at the hospital as a result of injuries she sustained from the crash. Investigators say none of the seven passengers was wearing a seat belt.

Timalshina failed a field sobriety test, but the Harris Co. DA's Office decided not to arrest him, saying it needed the results of a blood alcohol test. Police say Timalshina flew to Qatar the same day of the crash.

Prosecutors charged him with three counts of intoxication manslaughter, but by then, Timalshina had already left.

KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy said these latest developments mean the victims' families will not get justice, and Houston police will never get the suspect back into custody.

"He should have been taken into custody immediately," Androphy said. "There wasn't enough evidence to show probable cause to arrest him. You don't have to have evidence to convict on the spot to arrest somebody."

When we asked Capt. Staney, why not arrest Timalshina for running the light and causing the three deaths, he replied, "That would have been a prosecutorial decision and you would have to take that up with the DA's office."

And when we asked if someone dropped the ball that night, Capt. Staney responded, "It's hard to say."

The Harris Co. District Attorney's Office released a statement Wednesday saying, "We are making every effort to return Mr. Timalshina to the jurisdiction, so we can ensure that he faces the criminal charges that have been filed against him."

The DA's office is working with the Nepalese government to work out extradition.

Houston police say they are working with the U.S. Marshal's Office to put an alert on his passport so if he does try to reenter the country, authorities will be notified.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Sajan Timalshina is asked to call the HPD Vehicular Crimes Division at 713-247-4072.


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