Friends, family remember teen killed in crash

July 15, 2010 5:11:40 AM PDT
Houston police are defending their decision not to arrest a man who failed a sobriety test after a crash that killed three teenagers. By the time a warrant was issued for this arrest, he'd left the country, most likely for Nepal, where he is from. Police who worked the scene say knowing what they know now, of course they would have arrested the suspect at the scene, but it is the victims' families who will suffer the most now wondering if they will ever see justice.

Losing someone is hard for anyone, but it comes very unexpected when you're a teenager.

"It's hard because we were always together, like all the time. If she wasn't at my house, I was at her house," said Jameela Atkins.

Atkins describes her dear friend Avaianca Cortez as a bright student at Teak Middle School who loved the color pink.

"She always said she liked light colors, and she said it was bright," she said.

Investigators have learned the suspect in the crash that killed Cortez and two of her friends fled the country to his native Nepal.

"It's hard how he can take three lives and just up and leave," Atkins said. "He knows what he did was wrong."

Police say 25-year-old Sajan Timalshina was given a field sobriety test at the scene, but officers felt it was inconclusive, so they went for a mandatory blood sample, which meant waiting for the results before making an arrest.

"While you could say we may have had probable cause, it really wasn't as strong as we would normally like in order to charge somebody with the death of three people," said Capt. Bill Staney with HPD's vehicular crimes department.

Investigators say the tests came back Monday and revealed Timalshina was legally drunk. He was charged but nowhere to be found when they went to his Humble home to arrest him.

Prosecutors and officers at the scene found he was here legally on a student visa and didn't believe the owner of a convenience store was a flight risk.

Those who know him from that business say they haven't seen him in days.

"He was preparing for his masters, and all of a sudden this accident happened, and I don't know what he is doing or where he is," said Joe, one of the men who knew him from the convenience store.

"He did a stupid mistake. That was very wrong of him," said Reed, another one of the men who knew him. "Driving drunk is never a good thing at all."

Friends and family said goodbye to Cortez at her funeral on Wednesday.

But they also want to make sure no one forgets how she was taken.

"I miss her talking to me, being around me," Atkins said.

Police say they are working with US Marshals, and Timalshina will be flagged if tries to re-enter this country. KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy says his research found Nepal has an extradition act but no treaty with the US, which could mean little cooperation if he is indeed in his native land.

The Harris County District Attorney is out of town and not saying much about the case. Pat Lykos did, however, release this statement about Timalshina 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."

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