Starr County woman receives maximum sentence for DWI case

RIO GRANDE CITY — A woman was sentenced to 50 years in prison Tuesday for her role in a fatal, alcohol-related crash in Escobares two summers ago that killed a mother and grandmother.

Lisette Fuentes, 32, was given the maximum sentence by visiting Judge Everado Garcia on Tuesday, after she pleaded guilty to two counts of intoxication manslaughter, a second-degree felony carrying a sentence of up to 20 years; one count of intoxication assault, a third-degree felony carrying up to 10 years; and three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, also a second-degree felony.

Fuentes was drunk behind the wheel June 12, 2016, when she drove across the median on U.S. Highway 83, striking an oncoming vehicle carrying Elena Lopez Cantu, 75, and Maria Zulema Garcia, 45. The two died at the scene, and Garcia’s husband was seriously injured.

The judge imposed the maximum sentence lengths on Fuentes, who had previously been arrested for DWIs, ordering the first three sentences be stacked and the remaining three to run concurrent. The earliest she could be paroled is five years.

Yasmin Garcia, 27, the daughter and granddaughter of the victims, said her family was satisfied by the sentence, describing it as a work of God that Fuentes received the harshest sentence.

“I think that drunk driving victims are very marginalized compared to other crimes,” Yasmin Garcia said. “Nobody seems to take drunk driving victims as seriously as other types of crimes.”

Fuentes was originally supposed to appear before District Judge Luis Singleterry of Hidalgo County’s 92nd District Court. Singleterry, who had been appointed by the Fifth Administrative Judicial Region to hear the case, was rumored to be more lenient, Garcia said, expressing frustration the sentencing took place nearly a year after Fuentes’ plea.

Fuentes’ attorney, J.M. “Chuy” Alvarez, filed multiple motions for continuance and Singleterry postponed court for months at a time, leading the fifth region to ultimately appoint Judge Garcia to the case in order to expedite it.

Alvarez did not return a call for comment.

“They were just prolonging it, keeping us on our toes,” Yasmin Garcia said. “We were always getting emotionally ready (for the sentencing phase), which is very draining.”

Garcia, her brother and her father all testified at the sentencing, which ran from Monday to Tuesday, and the close of the legal chapter is “a huge weight off our shoulders,” she said.

“No one comes out a winner in these types of cases; however, the deaths of these women were a senseless and avoidable tragedy,” said 229th Assistant District Attorney Alexandria Barrera. “I believe Judge Garcia very carefully and appropriately considered all the evidence, the nature of the offense, and the surrounding circumstances. Hopefully, with a sentence like this, our community will see a decline in DWIs.”

Last weekend alone, Starr County had approximately 10 DWI arrests, Barrera said.

“I really hope that this sends a message to the community and makes people out there think twice before getting behind a wheel drunk, drugged, or both,” she added.