Man out on bond for capital murder accused of crash that killed TSU student, authorities say

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A man who made bond for capital murder after a judge lowered it, is now charged for allegedly killing a college student in a crash.

Jonathan Vera, 20, was charged with manslaughter and failure to stop and render aid related to a rollover crash that killed 23-year-old Summer Chester, a senior at Texas Southern University.

Houston police said that on Jan. 25, Vera ran a red light on the North Freeway feeder road at Greens Road and collided with Chester. The impact was so hard, her car ended up on a sidewalk and on its side. Vera and his passengers ran off, witnesses told police. Chester died at the scene.

By that night, Vera was under arrest and charged.

According to court records, Vera was out of jail on bond for capital murder related to a violent home invasion in the Greenspoint area in 2017. In the incident, a 55-year-old homeowner was shot and killed. Vera was able to make bond only after Judge Natalia Cornelio of the 351st District Court lowered it.

"Wow. The bond plummeted from $250,000, which is pretty low, to $50,000 on capital murder of this magnitude," said Andy Kahan, the director of Victim Services for Crime Stoppers.

In June 2018, Vera was arrested and charged with capital murder for the home invasion. He was certified as an adult. His bond was listed at $250,000 and he would remain in jail until Judge Cornelio lowered it in March 2021. While Vera was in jail, he was charged with harassment of a public servant. Capital murder is the only charge in Texas for which judges can set no bond.

"I would love to hear an explanation of why (Cornelio) thought this was in the best interest of public safety. It's the most egregious offense we have in the state of Texas, capital murder," said Kahan.

Judge Cornelio told ABC13, "the law prohibits me from commenting on a pending case."

On Thursday, she revoked Vera's bond. Now, he remains in jail, still facing the capital murder charge as well as the new charges for the crash that killed Chester.

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