A Texas Ranger’s testimony at a hearing over a 17-year-old intoxication manslaughter allegation revealed the fatal crash happened on a street where 50 to 60 vehicles had gathered for a race.
The new detail came from the testimony of Ranger B.J. Hill during a bond reduction hearing for 39-year-old Michigan resident Juan Jose Gomez, who is charged with one count of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault with a vehicle.
Gomez allegedly drove drunk on Feb. 23, 2003, and hit and killed Jennifer Ybarra and seriously injured two other people, one who was left paralyzed and another who has since died of unrelated reasons.
Gomez has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Hill, who got involved in the case in 2020, said the crash happened at about 10:23 p.m. as Gomez approached a street racing event on FM 2812, where 50 to 60 vehicles were parked on the north and south side of the road. The headlights illuminated the roadway that was being used as a race strip.
The Texas Ranger testified that Gomez was traveling toward the race, which he was unaware was happening, when he rear-ended a vehicle that was stopped on the roadway.
Ybarra, who was in the parked vehicle with three others, died.
The crash knocked Gomez unconscious, and Hill said he was briefly interviewed by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper before he was taken to the hospital, where he was interviewed again.
Hill said Gomez’s blood-alcohol content was 0.15, nearly twice the legal limit.
The Ranger testified four other people were also injured in the collision. The driver of the vehicle Ybarra was in suffered minor injuries, as did another man. But Jaime Medina, the front passenger in that vehicle, was paralyzed, Hill said.
Janet Serna, a pedestrian at the race, was also seriously injured. She has since died of reasons unrelated to this case, Hill said.
Medina and Serna’s injuries led to charges of intoxication assault with a vehicle causing serious bodily injury.
The Michigan man is currently being held on a $50,000 bond for the intoxication manslaughter count and $20,000 bonds on each intoxication assault with a motor vehicle causing serious bodily injury charge.
Joseph A. Connors III, the defense attorney representing Gomez, did not seek a reduction in the $50,000 bond.
Rather, he asked state District Judge Ysmael Fonseca to reduce the intoxication assault bonds to $5,000 cash apiece, which Connors said would be put up by Gomez’s wife and his employer.
Michael Walker, the prosecutor, said he opposed any reduction in bond, citing Gomez’s misdemeanor criminal history, the alleged facts and the severity of the case, as well as the safety of the community.
Fonseca declined to reduce Gomez’s bonds any further.
Gomez turned himself into the Hidalgo County Detention Center earlier this month after U.S. Marshals arrested him in Michigan in September.
A Michigan judge released him on bond on the condition that he turn himself in to authorities in Hidalgo County.