7-year suspended sentence in intox manslaughter case

EDINBURG — Leonel Martinez Adame will serve seven years of community supervision after jurors handed down his punishment Tuesday.

A day after finding him guilty of accident involving death, and a lesser included charge, driving while intoxicated, the former of which is a second degree felony, jurors sentenced Adame to seven years in prison but suspended the sentence for community supervision. On the other charge, driving while intoxicated, the jury awarded a $2,000 fine.

During closing arguments in the punishment phase Tuesday afternoon, Adame’s attorneys argued that the case did not merit prison time — painting Adame as a responsible, hardworking man who was a contributor to society, and characterizing the crash that left Kevin Andrade dead as a tragedy.

The state on the other hand, argued jurors should remember Kevin’s family, and how this has affected them. The state underscored how they will never ever get to see him again, and that Adame chose to drink before he got behind the wheel of his pickup truck the night he struck Andrade.

The state called the defense’s ask of two years probation for their client, a “slap on the wrist,” and not appropriate for what resulted from the crash.

In a surprising turn, and after the state called Andrade’s two brothers and mother to the stand, Adame elected to testify Tuesday.

During his testimony, Adame expressed his remorse for the crash that resulted in the death of the Andrade, a Roma High School basketball star July 15, 2017.

Adame took the stand to make his case to jurors for probation in lieu of prison time; as he qualified for the community supervision option because Adame has never been convicted of a felony.

Adame, 31, a La Joya High School graduate, now resides in Houston.

During his testimony, Adame paused, looked into the audience and addressed Andrade’s friends and family.

“I’m sorry for this,” Adame said as he locked his eyes on Andrade’s family. “I hope that sometime in the future you have the heart to forgive me.”

Adame was behind the wheel of a pickup truck in the early morning hours of July 15, 2017, when he struck Andrade, who was 21 years old at the time, in downtown McAllen.

The defense argued during the trial that although Adame did not stop to render aid after he struck Andrade, the event itself was a tragedy that Adame could not have foreseen.

During the four days of testimony, the defense showed jurors video footage of the night of the crash.

In the footage, Andrade can be seen running out into the intersection, despite the green light for motorists.

Adame’s attorneys called as character witnesses; his older brother, Eduardo Adame, who described Leonel as kindhearted, while another friend of Adame’s, Lori Ann Guerra, testified that Adame was focused on his career, and was someone that was always there for her in times of need; and a good friend to her during difficult times.

Jesus and Eric Andrade took the stand for the state; during which, they each gave testimony for jurors about their little brother Kevin, and how his death has impacted them.

The eldest Andrade, Jesus, told jurors how he, Eric and Kevin were all really close, and how all three got to play on the Varsity basketball team together, first Jesus and Eric, and then Eric and Kevin, who was known as a champion, and Most Valuable Player.

Asked by the state what he missed most about his baby brother Kevin, Jesus Andrade said, “everything.”

“He was my best friend, he brought my parents happiness; our family events are not the same,” Jesus Andrade said.

Eric Andrade testifies about how he heard Kevin looked up to him, considered him a role model, something he said Kevin never told him.

“Wherever (Kevin) went, he had friends,” Eric Andrade testified. “He made me proud to be his brother, he made our family proud.”

Rosalinda Andrade, Kevin’s mother, and by the family’s account, the baby and her favorite, testified through the use of an interpreter, about how loving Kevin was with her, and the rest of the family.

“We all love each other in this family; the siblings were all very close, Rosalinda said, wiping away tears. “But (Kevin) would always show us his love, he was so loving.”

Rosalinda testified that since Kevin’s death; often times she visits Kevin’s grave, cleaning it up, cutting the grass around his headstone

Also she admitted to having conversations with her youngest, graveside, despite knowing that no matter how many pictures she adornes to his headstone, her baby isn’t coming out of there.

Rosalinda Andrade testified that her baby boy would be 24 years old if he were still alive.

“I no longer have peace,” Rosalinda said through tears. “Happiness doesn’t exist anymore.”

Only moments after the court read the jurors’ decision to the courtroom, an emotional Adame stood up, faced the jury box and choked out a “thank you,” before sitting back down.

After the punishment was handed down, Jesus Andrade released a statement to The Monitor, in which he stated his displeasure with the punishment given.

“Adame got a slap on the wrist. Sending the message to the community that it’s okay to drink and drive and not pay the consequences,” Jesus Andrade said in the statement. “The laws are there for a reason and it’s the right thing to follow the law, as Kevin was by not drinking and driving that night.”

Rosalinda Andrade also provided a statement soon after the jurors handed down their sentence.

“Juries need to think about the community and the pain that a mother who has lost a child goes through. Not just this family but all families that have gone through this and are going through it now,” Rosalinda Andrade said in the release.

This post has been updated to state the correct punishment handed down.