Jarales father dies instantly; daughter critically injured in DWI-related crash

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Life was good for Danny and Naeomi Sanchez and their three children on their Jarales farm, but now it will never be the same.

“He was a good person and he had a really good heart,” Naeomi said of her husband, Danny, who was killed by an alleged drunk driver Saturday, while riding his motorcycle on Jarales Road.

Courtesy of William Sanchez: Danny Sanchez and his daughter, Magen, 11, were involved in a crash Saturday that killed Sanchez and injured the Gil Sanchez Elementary fifth-grader. Magen has undergone two surgeries and will have a third soon.

Police say Jacob Williams, 27, of Bosque, is responsible for Sanchez’s death and injuring the victim’s 11-year-old daughter. Williams is charged with homicide by vehicle, great bodily injury by vehicle while driving under the influence of liquor or any drug and aggravated DWI.

He is being held on a $20,000 cash or surety bond in the Valencia County Detention Center.

Naeomi and Danny married 18 years ago after meeting while she was a student at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus. Because of their 10-year-age difference, Naeomi said Danny always joked with their oldest daughter, Magen, that when her mother was 8-years-old and he was 18 and graduating from high school, she looked at him and said, “I’m going to marry that man one day.”

“And she actually believed him,” Naeomi said.

Through her tears and heartbreak over the loss of her husband, Naeomi is also trying to deal with helping Magen recovery from injuries she sustained in the crash.

The Gil Sanchez fifth-grader, who was on the back of her dad’s motorcycle on the day of the tragic crash, has severe injuries to her left femur and has already undergone two surgeries.

“She’ll undergo another after the (funeral) services,” Naeomi said. “They released her (Monday night) from ICU, and now she’s in the special care unit. She’ll be able to attend the services and then go back to the hospital.”

Naeomi said their family was the most important thing in her husband’s life, always trying to find more time to spend with her and their children, Magen, 4-year-old Dante, and 2-year-old Candice.

Whether it was taking his family fishing in their motor home, going on cruises with their cousins or just teaching his son how to play basketball or how to throw a ball, Naeomi said her husband was “the perfect dad.”

“As a father, words can’t even describe how he felt about his children. His kids were his world,” Naeomi said. “He was unbelievable — he is what every man strives to be.

“As a husband … through good times and in bad, through sickness and in health, he stood by me. And now, until death do we part, I am standing by him.”

Danny, an electrician for the past five years at UNM, had previously owned his own company, Perfection Electric, a name Naeomi said described his personality and work ethic. And because of his reputation, his business was successful.

“But because he was getting older and because he wanted to spend more time with the children, he decided to apply for the job at UNM,” Naeomi said.

Since the day of the crash, the Sanchez family has received an outpouring of support from friends, family and the community.

“I know deep down in my heart that the only way I can and am able to do this is through the love and generosity of family, friends, community (and from) people I don’t even know,” Naeomi said, “and with Danny holding my hand and reminding me in my head and in my heart that we will get through this …

“I feel overwhelmingly thankful and truly blessed to know Danny has touched so many peoples’ lives and how their love for him has poured over unto me,” she said. “…From the bottom of my heart to the top of all of those kind and loving hearts out there, thank you.”

According to New Mexico State Police, Williams was driving a 2001 Dodge truck southbound on Jarales Road at about 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. Police say when he drove left of the center of the two-lane highway, he hit the northbound motorcycle Sanchez was driving head on.

State Police Lt. Emmanuel Gutierrez said Danny Sanchez was killed instantly and that both the father and daughter were wearing helmets at the time of the crash.

According to the criminal complaint filed in Belen Magistrate Court, when NMSP officer Toby LaFave arrived on scene and spoke to Williams, he noticed Williams’ eyes were bloodshot and watery, his speech was slurred and LaFave detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from his breath.

While noticing Williams had cuts to his right temple, right shoulder and on his hands, the officer asked him if he had been drinking.

” …(I) was told he had, but (he) did not state the amount or type of alcoholic beverage(s), just stated ‘a little,’” LaFave wrote in the criminal complaint. “When asked if he drove to this location, Mr. Williams admitted to being the driver and striking someone or something.”

Williams told the officer after noticing the damage to his truck, he pulled off the road, stopped and called police, according to the complaint.

Because of Williams’ injuries, the officer couldn’t complete the standardized field sobriety tests. But, Gutierrez said two breath alcohol content tests were administered, one coming in at .25 and the other at .26, three times the presumed level of intoxication. A blood draw was also administered, although those results are still pending.

Williams is scheduled to make his first court appearance in Belen Magistrate Court on Thursday.

The man who police said is responsible for Danny Sanchez’s death and his daughter’s injuries is no stranger to the court system.

In 2008, Williams pleaded no contest to charges and was sentenced to six years in prison for the 2006 DWI-related crash that killed another motorcyclist in Rio Communities and injured the passenger.

Williams killed Quin Sanchez (no relation to Danny Sanchez) in August 2006 when Quin Sanchez was riding his motorcycle on N.M. 47 in Rio Communities. According to police reports, Williams was driving a van west on Goodman, failed to stop at the intersection and struck the motorcycle.

Quin Sanchez was pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger, Mary Ann Madrid, was thrown from the bike and is now paralyzed as a result of her injuries.

In fact, District Court Judge William Sanchez, Danny Sanchez’s brother, was the judge who presided over that case and sentenced Williams to prison in April 2008.

“I remember that case very distinctly,” Judge Sanchez said. “I remember saying to the defendant that if I could give him more time, I would have, but I was limited by the plea agreement.”

Sanchez said he doesn’t think the plea agreement was unreasonable, but remembers because of the seriousness of the charges, he wouldn’t entertain pleas of leniency from Williams’ defense attorney or family.

“Aside from what eventually happened and my brother being killed by a drunk driver, I’ve always approached sentencing through the perspective of protecting the community,” he said.

When Sanchez learned about his brother’s death Saturday by the hands of an alleged drunk driver, he said, “I crossed my fingers that it wasn’t someone I had granted leniency for.”

On Monday, the judge went to his office to complete a jury trial and looked up Williams’ prior case.

“I feel comfort in myself that I did the right thing,” the judge said of the case. “I couldn’t, under the plea agreement, have given him any more time.”

Before sentencing Williams to prison in 2008, the judge told the defendant, “I have no doubt in my mind that you’re remorseful for your actions. But with all the media, all the attention there is on DWIs, everyone should be on notice. There’s the saying, ‘You drink, you drive, you lose.’ There should be another one, ‘You drink, you drive, you kill someone, you go to prison.’”

When remembering his brother, Danny, Judge Sanchez said he had always been a “fierce competitor,” whether it was as a basketball player, a poker player or playing horseshoes.

“He was probably one of the best people at horseshoes and everyone always wanted to be on his team,” he said of his brother. “He had so many people who considered him their best friend.”

Judge Sanchez said he envied Danny because he was always considered the “favorite uncle,” always playful and attentive to his nephews and nieces.

The community is also coming together to help the family. A bank account has been opened for the Sanchez family at the State Employees Credit Union: Account No. 3002208210.

Al’s Styling Salon in Belen will be holding a cut-a-thon fundraiser at 9 a.m., Sunday, Feb. 9, with all proceeds going to the Sanchez family.

The salon will be offering hair cuts for a minimum $10 donation. For information, call Cassandra Johnson at 306-2958.


-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.