Man charged in crash that killed his 6-year-old stepdaughter

Tuesday, October 12, 2021
Man charged in crash that killed his 6-year-old stepdaughter
Zyra was just days from her 7th birthday when she was thrown from a vehicle in a crash that injured her younger half-brothers as well.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A 6-year-old was killed after she was ejected on the Southwest Freeway Saturday afternoon, and her mother told ABC13 that her stepfather was driving the car.

Paul Rodriguez has been charged with murder after Houston police said he was weaving in and out of traffic on the freeway before crashing into an 18-wheeler with three children in the car.

Zyra Longoria was supposed to turn 7 years old on Wednesday, according to her mother, Sabrina Garcia.

Garcia has two biological sons with Rodriguez. Last weekend was Rodriguez's turn to watch the 2- and 4-year-olds, but Zyra wanted to be included and spent the weekend with her stepdad.

"He raised her since she was young," Garcia said. "She liked going with him and spending time with him, so I let her go."

According to court documents, witnesses believed Rodriguez was intoxicated. They followed him while calling 911.

Police said Rodriguez kept driving after his Honda struck the 18-wheeler. He then went on to hit a Mercedes and a box truck.

Zyra was ejected from the car and thrown onto the freeway. She later died at the hospital. Court records state a sergeant also believed Rodriguez was intoxicated.

A witness said Rodriguez did not check on his stepdaughter while she was lying lifeless on the freeway, according to documents. The witness heard him telling someone that she wasn't his child.

"It's so upsetting," Garcia said, while fighting tears. "I trusted him to take care of my baby and to bring her back home. She's not coming home anymore, so it's hard."

According to records, Rodriguez was charged with intoxicated assault and DWI with a child under 15 years old, but those charges have been dropped. The District Attorney's Office told ABC13 that those charges were filed before he was charged with murder.

Records show Rodriguez has a criminal history, including seven charges for drug possession over the years.

As for the boys who were also in the car, they are back home with their mother. Police said they both sustained cuts and bruises.

Garcia said being strong for her sons is what is keeping her going.

Rodriguez's bond was set at $250,000.

Garcia said he contacted her from jail to apologize, but right now her focus is on her children and her daughter's funeral arrangements.

The family created a GoFundMe page for anyone who would like to donate.