Amber Willemsen was found guilty of intoxication manslaughter in connection with Officer Endy Ekpanya's death.
Police said Willemsen, 40, slammed into Ekpanya's police cruiser on East Broadway Street near Liberty Drive in Pearland in June 2016 while he was on duty. Prosecutors say the former assistant principal and mother of two got drunk during her seven-hour shift at a strip club off the Gulf Freeway just prior to the wreck. Her blood alcohol content level was measured at .162 -- twice the legal limit.
Evidence presented in court revealed Amber Willemsen told a friend in jail that she'd had a few drinks on the night of the accident, but clearly remembers everything that happened.
Willemsen allegedly told that same friend in jail that the experience was "something to check off [her] bucket list" and said that the situation could have been much worse.
ORIGINAL REPORT: Pearland officer killed in head-on car crash
"I sat for a year and tried to figure out why it was him," she said in testimony. "He had so much more to offer than me -- he has a family that won't get to see him and a child who won't get to have the experience I've had with my children."
Willemsen also claimed she was pulled over on a Houston highway on suspicion of drunk driving before the crash with Ekpanya, but that officer took her to a local Denny's instead of arresting her.
The driver's side of Ekpanya's car was crushed, and he had to be extracted from the vehicle. Ekpanya died on the way to the hospital.
According to Harris County court records, Willemsen was out on bond for a May 29 charge for possession of methamphetamine. She received probation in October 2012 for driving while intoxicated.
Clear Creek ISD confirmed Willemsen worked as an assistant principal at Bauerschlag Elementary several years before the crash. A district spokesperson said Willemsen resigned in May 2012 to "take care of family."
According to never-before publicized reports given to Eyewitness News by Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne, Willemsen was involved in a prior wreck on June 10, 2015.
Yenne said evidence leads her to believe Willemsen may have been driving drunk then, too.
"No charges resulted from that. There was no arrest," Yenne said.
The D.A. also released a transcript of a phone call that driver had later with her insurance company in which the driver said, "You could just smell the liquor, like you could just smell it. She was very drunk."
Carmen Waldron went on to tell the insurance adjuster that, "They (police) didn't do a sobriety test on her."
Willemsen was not arrested or charged that night. Waldron said she asked the officer why. She told the adjuster, "He said that she wasn't drunk enough for a DWI, which is a lie."
At trial, testimony revealed the Houston police officer dropped Willemsen off at a Denny's and told her to find a ride and to get her life together.
D.A. Yenne wonders if Willemsen might never had driven drunk that night in 2016 if she'd been arrested in 2015.
"That was concerning to us. Perhaps if there had been some other intervention, we might not be here today," she said.
The Houston Police Department said it takes allegations of officer misconduct seriously, however there is no mention of any allegation of intoxication on the part of Willemsen in the police report from the crash in 2015.
Willemsen was sentenced to 32 years for intoxicated manslaughter.
Ekpanya left behind a 2-year-old son and a wife. His widow, Lucy Lugo, sent us a powerful statement she read in court about her husband.
READ THE FULL VICTIM STATEMENT, AS IT WAS PRESENTED IN COURT WORD FOR WORD:
"In my household there is no 5-99 range of how what you have done has affected us. I am deeply saddened for your children, for your parents, for Endy's mother, and the rest of the family, but especially for my son.
It was not just Endy's life that was cut short, it was our hopes, our dreams, and aspirations. You killed my future children and fatherhood, you killed fatherhood. Endy was the perfect father, provider, and just all around man. He didn't become that on his own. Since you never once bothered to ask about Endy as he laid dying at the crash site, let me tell you a little bit about him. He came from a Christian household where the mother had to sometimes sacrifice spending time with the children so she could attend medical school. At age 11 the family moved to the United States while the father stayed behind caring for a sick and elderly parent. Endy's mother, Dr. Addy Nnsewo, a physician at the time, was unemployed for six months until she was eventually pick up a minimum wage job while taking exams to qualify for residency training. Endy noted the sacrifices that his mother took and worked diligently as an adult to make mommy proud. He went on to earn an Associates degree from Adelphi University in Social Work, a Bachelors degree in Psychology and a Bachelors degree in Sociology from Hofstra University. He attended a year of Law school at Ave Maria School of Law where he eventually decided the field was not for him, he did not believe he could have a lifelong fulfilling career as an attorney, which then turned his attention to the other side of law. He went against his mothers wishes and decided he wanted to become a Peace Officer. He pursued a Masters degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland and additionally went on to earn another Masters degree from the same University in Business Management. He did not do this alone, he had the support of his mother along with my own unconditional support. It was not easy, there were many sleepless nights, a lot of family time sacrificed, a lot of preparing for exams and job aplications. You have no clue what you have really done. Now all I have left in my home are his badge, his degrees, numerous news articles, medals of honor, challenge coins, plaques with recognition of his sacrifice, but I do not have him.
He was incredibly proud to be the head of our household, to be able to provide and protect his little family. He was an incredibly dedicated Officer, his days off were spent with us driving through the city of pearland learning the in's and outs of the roads. In our free time I would quizz him, with flashcards made by him, on things like legal statutes and lawful stops. How ironic is life, that we even practiced conducting field sobriety tests at home, with me being the test subject. Just a month before his death he shared with me how much he loved his Job, he tied with another officer for highest number of traffic stops and raked in the highest daily average traffic stops. He came home and told me he felt really good about making the leadership board and the way he saw it he was doing all of this for Julian, he was keeping the city safe and removing bad guys from the same streets our son would be growing up in. On another occasion he began a self initiated pursuit of a vehicle used in a burglary. He took himself off of a low priority call being that he was in the area of the robbery, he used his instincts and went against the travel description provided by dispatch and was eventually able to successfully locate the vehicle in question, call for back-up and save the night. One of his supervisors even commended him for his
"Rockstar" move on recognizing the probable suspect's vehicle.
Right now Endy would be working on his Phd, he would be holding our son's hand, guiding him through life, he would be holding me tight, he would be making his mother proud. Instead he lays in a grave because of the train wreck that your life has been. I have never met anyone so selfish, so careless, so overall undeserving of life, with such a heavy disregard for authority.
You killed a son, a brother, a family man. You killed fatherhood! Do you understand, you killed fatherhood!
When people told me Endy was a hero, I had a hard time accepting that. In my mind all I could think about was that he lost his life and did not even have a fighting chance. It isn't untill now that I have learned much more about that night, and how wreckless your life had been, that I can more easily accept his title as a hero. There was a citizen driving behind him, sopmeone whose life you could have easily taken had Endy not been in your way. Even if it wouldn't have been Justin Black, I'm sure it would have been someone else at some other time, maybe even an entire family. You are dangerous Amber and I do not believe you deserve freedom. I refuse to believe this was an act of god. As an adult, you made choices and disregarded those who tried to help you. God did not have you kill such a valuable man so you could become a better person because of it. You destroyed a family but this is not about you, this is about the type of life Endy lived and his sacrifice. He felt so passionate about his job that he willingly and eagerly showed up to work each day ready to serve and protect without hessitation. After his funeral you felt closure? And thought about writing a book? Really? And my son and my pain? Nothing. You have destroyed my family and I am sorry if for now I have no compassion in my heart. My heart is not as golden or forgiving as Endy's mom. I have a lot of anger, frustration, and a deep sadness that you will never know.
Sitting through this trial was agonizing and painful, especially when your defense argument circled around blaming Endy. How dare you allow for such a wild claim to be presented in front of a grieving widow and the mother of the man you killed. Blame was placed on everyone and everything except you. I do not believe that you only realized you were guilty only after the verdict. I had a tough time after the accident and still have a tough time today especially after learning that you previously rear ended someone while intoxicated and got a slap on the wrist. I was also angry at everything and everyone for a while but I eventually came to terms with the fact that the only person to blame here is you. A difficult day is coming, the day when I have to explain to my son how his father was killed by a drunk driver. You being incarcerated brings me no joy but it does bring me some type of peace.
This should have never happened, you had too many chances and you abused them, you had too much privilege and you knew it. At the end of the day, there is nothing that can bring Endy back and I hope you think long and hard about what you have done."
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