Sleeping Falfurrias woman dies, SUV through house

August 9, 2011 7:06:09 PM PDT
The driver of an SUV carrying illegal immigrants that plowed into a South Texas home killing a 70-year-old woman asleep inside could face murder charges once investigators confirm who was behind the wheel, a local prosecutor said Tuesday.

Berta Gonzalez of Falfurrias was in bed when the crash happened early Saturday. She was dragged about 15 feet and pronounced dead on the scene, according to federal court records.

The SUV, whose passengers were from El Salvador and Honduras, had fled from Falfurrias police when they tried to perform a traffic stop. Seven people were inside the vehicle.

Federal authorities have charged two men, Romeo Cantu and Marcos Adrian, with transporting illegal immigrants. Adrian and Cantu have said that Cantu was not in the vehicle, but was supposed to be a lookout. Adrian says a man who guided the immigrants through the brush was driving, according to the federal complaint.

Armando Barrera, state district attorney for Jim Wells and Brooks counties, said investigators were still trying to determine who was driving when the crash occurred. Once that is determined, prosecutors will decide if the driver will be charged in state or federal court, he said.

"If it's state we're going to go murder and manslaughter," Barrera said. He was leaning toward murder since it occurred during the commission of another crime, fleeing authorities.

The immigrants had hiked around the Border Patrol checkpoint south of Falfurrias before being picked up by the Chevrolet Suburban that later crashed into Gonzalez's house, according to court records.

The immigrants had fled after the crash and could have escaped if a neighbor had not looked outside and spotted them hiding in his truck, Barrera said.

Four of the immigrants were treated for injuries at area hospitals and released. The immigrants made their initial appearances in federal court in Corpus Christi on Monday and will be held as material witnesses. Adrian and Cantu also appeared in court Monday and were ordered held pending detention hearings scheduled for Thursday. It was not immediately known if Adrian and Cantu had been appointed counsel.

Load Comments