Mug shot helps clear accused woman

November 5, 2010 4:40:48 PM PDT
A drunk driving crash that claimed the lives of two people has taken a shocking twist. A woman who was first identified as the drunk driver has been cleared of manslaughter charges, all thanks to evidence as clear as day in her mug shot. The woman is now free, but her own ex-fiancé is now in jail, accused of putting her in the driver's seat after the collision. Rodney White is from Louisiana. He is in custody in Baton Rouge. He waived extradition, so now prosecutors are waiting for him to be transferred to the Harris County jail.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, a deadly accident killed two people at the corner of Regal Oaks Bend and Almeda Genoa in southeast Houston. Alison Baimbridge was on call for the district attorney's office and responded to the scene.

"The reconstructionists have told us that he went at about 57 miles per hour right through that stop sign," Baimbridge said.

At the time, a Louisiana woman, Edwanda Cesar, was arrested and charged with manslaughter, believed to be behind the wheel. But during her first court appearance the prosecutor noticed something unusual.

Baimbridge explained, "She had a pretty severe burn on the side of her body where a passenger side seatbelt would sit."

That's right -- passenger's side, not driver's. In fact, her seat belt burn was so bad it was visible in her mug shot. We've blurred Cesar's face at the request of the district attorney's office because although she was once a defendant, now Cesar is a victim. Prosecutors believe her then-fiancé, Rodney White, switched places with her moments after the accident, while she was unconscious, to make it look like she was driving.

"We took the airbags out of the truck as well as samples from the seatbelts from both sides," Baimbridge said.

Cesar talked to me over the phone from Louisiana.

She said, "When I was arrested and had to be in front of the judge and had no clue of what was going on... I just want to see him in front of the judge."

Prosecutors spent months collecting evidence and waiting for the results of DNA samples. Now back, they say they have enough proof to go after White.

"I just try to take it one day at a time," Cesar said. "I know I've got God on my side and that's all I have to do."

White is charged with two counts of manslaughter. He could face two to twenty years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine in each case.


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