Four days into a jury trial, a Tomball man pleaded guilty Thursday and accepted a 50-year prison sentence for driving drunk and killing three members of a family, including a mother, father and their son who had just picked up his cap and gown to graduate from high school.
Jeremy Paul Valdez, 27, was driving a pick-up truck at 106 mph in May 2016, when he ran a red light and then smashed into a compact sedan carrying the family, according to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
“Three people lost their lives, and a bright young light was extinguished before it could truly shine,” Sean Teare, Chief of the Vehicular Crimes Division of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. “This was a tragedy for the entire community.”
The family members all died at the scene, near the corner of Kuykendahl Road and FM 2920.
Those who died were Emilio Avila Blanco and Hilda Avila, and their son, Mauricio Ramirez, 18, who was a student at Klein Oak High School.
Valdez scrambled out the window of the pick-up truck he was driving and sought to escape on foot, but was caught a block away by Good Samaritans.
Valdez had a blood-alcohol concentration of almost three times the legal limit.
He had three prior convictions for drunk driving. He served two years in prison for a May 2013 drunk driving incident in which deputies tried to stop him in Montgomery County.
In the earlier case, he led them on a 22 mile chase that ended when he crashed into a pick-up truck carrying two women who had to be hospitalized.
“The two surviving orphans will never be the same,” Teare said of two younger children who had been at their grandparents house at the time of the accident.
“This sentence ensures that this family can begin the healing process without fear of an appeal and that the community will be safe from this habitual offender for at least 25 years,” said Teare, who prosecuted the case in the 208th District Court before Judge Denise Collins. “It also shows that this administration will not let these types of crimes to go unpunished.”