The Baez family was on its way to watch movies on Sunday when tragedy struck. While the family was waiting for a traffic light to change at an intersection, a man drove into the family’s vehicle at WestPark and Dunvale in Houston, killing a 17-year-old daughter and injuring her father. Houston is the fourth-largest city in America.

Young Nicole Baez, who survived the incident, told Houston ABC 13 News,  "I just remember sitting down on the sidewalk, my mom was still screaming my sister's name. I can hear my dad asking for water. I could sort of see people around me, that's when my arm started killing me." 

Suspect Edy Lopez-Hernandez, 27, is now facing four charges, including felony murder. In addition, Lopez-Hernandez is an illegal alien who has already been deported twice. 

At the time of the crash, Lopez-Hernandez was high on drugs and travelling at approximately 70 miles per hour in a Mustang and did not bother to brake before the crash when he rear-ended the Baez family sedan. According to police, Lopez-Hernandez grabbed his two-year-old child out of his car and fled. However, a wrecker driver told police where Lopez-Hernandez was headed, thereby enabling his arrest. The car Lopez-Hernandez was driving did not have a registration and was bearing fake paper license plates.

The force of the violent crash was so great that it propelled the Baez vehicle into a concrete traffic median. 

Britney Baez, 17, was killed in the violent crash. Her body remained pinned within the wreckage for five hours, according to family members. Her father Mario is in critical condition and was placed in ICU at a local hospital where he is expected to undergo surgeries. Nicole survived but has a broken arm. Mario’s wife, Janina, suffered cuts and bruises. The family has set up a GoFundMe page and is asking for donations toward funeral and medical expenses. 

While federal law makes it a felony to illegally enter the United States, merely being in the country illegally is a civil offense. In an email response, Ira Mehlman of the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform, noted: “Illegal presence in the United States is a civil offense. But even civil offenses can carry jail time, as you and  [U.S. Attorney General] Jeff Sessions) have noted. Illegal re-entry after removal can carry criminal penalties.”

Mehlman went on to explain that there is a “practical” reason for making illegal presence in the country a civil offense. He noted in civil cases brought by the federal government, there is no guaranteed right to a taxpayer-funded public defender. “When citizens face charges by the IRS,” he wrote, “they are not entitled to court appointed representation. Given the sheer number of people who are in the country illegally, the already overburdened immigration courts could be overwhelmed.”

Lopez-Hernandez may spend a considerable amount of time in jail if convicted on the felony murder charge alone. Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code [Section 12.32] describes the penalties for felony murder in the first degree, for example, as a punishment of a maximum fine of $10,000, a prison sentence of five to 99 years.

The family’s GoFundMe page described Britney as “beautiful, creative, centered and mature.” She was loved by her family in the United States and Nicaragua. 
 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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