Grand jury indicts man in DWI death

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A man who police and prosecutors say was driving drunk last month, killing a father of three and injuring one of his daughters, has been indicted by a Valencia County grand jury.

Jacob Williams, 27, of Bosque, is charged with one count of homicide by vehicle, great bodily harm by vehicle and knowingly leaving the scene of an accident — all third-degree felonies. He is also charged with one count of aggravated DWI, a misdemeanor.

Jacob Williams Indicted

If convicted of all four counts, Williams could face a maximum sentence of 17 years in prison. He is currently being held on a no-bond hold in the Valencia County Detention Center.

During his first court appearance last month, through his attorney, Kari Morrissey, he pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Police say Williams is responsible for the death of Danny Sanchez, 51, of Jarales, and injuring Sanchez’s 11-year-old daughter, Magen.

According to New Mexico State Police, Williams was driving a 2001 Dodge truck southbound on Jarales Road at about 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 25 when he drove left of the center of the two-lane highway. He is charged with hitting Sanchez, who was driving his motorcycle, 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.

Magen Sanchez underwent three surgeries to her leg and was released from the University of New Mexico Hospital on Friday, nearly two weeks after the crash.

According to the criminal complaint filed in Belen Magistrate Court, when NMSP officer Toby LaFave first spoke with Williams that day, he noticed the suspect’s eyes were bloodshot and watery, his speech was slurred and he detected a strong odor of alcohol from his breath.

When the officer asked Williams 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 from the crash, 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 previously pleaded no contest and was sentenced to similar charges in the 2006 DWI-related crash that killed Quin Sanchez (no relation to Danny Sanchez) and paralyzed his passenger, Mary Ann Madrid, while they were riding a 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 on scene.

Ironically, 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.

In another twist of fate, Sanchez, who will be retiring at the end of this month, was inadvertently assigned to preside over Williams’ second case by the court clerk’s office.

Sanchez, who was unaware of the assignment, said Chief District Judge Louis McDonald has recused all of the judges in the 13th Judicial District from hearing the case.

According to online records, a new judge has not yet been assigned to preside over the case.

Thirteenth Judicial District Attorney Lemuel Martinez assigned a special prosecutor, Henry Valdez, to prosecute the case, citing a conflict of interest.

“Because we go before the judge (Judge William Sanchez) every day, I felt we shouldn’t prosecute someone who was involved the incident,” Martinez said. “We wanted to avoid any appearance of impropriety.”

Valdez, a former Santa Fe district attorney, is the head of the Administrative Office of the District Attorneys.


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