A 24-year-old woman with two prior drunk driving convictions in the last three years went to a rave on a Saturday night, got behind the wheel of her Jeep while intoxicated on vodka Red Bulls and ran a red light, killing the passenger of another car in a T-bone collision, according to a criminal complaint.
The El Paso Police Department said that Valeria Mena killed Steven Anthony Hernandez, 28, at the intersection of Edgemere and Joe Battle Boulevard, and that she showed clear signs of intoxication like “bloodshot/glossy eyes, swaying, odor of unknown alcoholic beverage on breath, and […] trouble standing up.” Hernandez was a passenger in a vehicle driven by an unidentified 24-year-old woman, KTSM reported.
A responding officer in El Paso noticed that Valeria Mena had a “white paper wristband with red colored stars on her right wrist and a glow stick on her left wrist.”
“The defendant stated she was coming from ‘my house, and that she was going to ‘my house,” the complaint said. “She repeated that several times.”
The officer asked her what she drank that night and Mena allegedly replied “whiskey.” When asked if she drank beer, Mena allegedly said, “yeah sure.” When asked if she had “shots,” she allegedly said “yeah.” When asked what kind of shots, she allegedly answered “everything.”
Mena gave up during a “walk and turn” test and said “I’m not doing it,” the complaint said.
“Let’s be honest, yes I’ve been drinking, yes I’ve been drunk, yes,” the defendant was quoted saying.
Mena agreed to a blood draw and was later interviewed at police headquarters, police said.
The defendant said she went to a “rave at a club,” identified as 11:11, a popular venue in El Paso, around 10 p.m. on May 20, according to the complaint. The fatal collision took place just before 3 a.m., said police.
“The Defendant stated that at the rave, she drank three Vodka Red Bulls” and didn’t not remember the collision, the complaint said.
The court docket shows that Mena’s motion to reduce her $76,000 bond was denied Tuesday. She faces the charge of intoxication manslaughter with a vehicle. Her defense attorney is Araceli Solis, who represented Mena in the most recent prior DWI case. The attorney declined to comment when Law&Crime reached her by phone Wednesday.
Both DWI cases ended with guilty pleas, court records show. One plea was entered at the end of October 2022 and the other in October 2020.
Visitation services for Steven Hernandez will take place Friday afternoon in El Paso, an obituary said.
Devastated family and friends are demanding justice for Steven.
“She took somebody that meant a lot to a lot of individuals and it’s sad that she didn’t get the opportunity to meet him because I’m sure if she would have she would have never drank and drove,” Steven’s friend Felipe Loza told KTSM.
“It wasn’t her first time and it wasn’t her second time. This would be her third time,” cousin Susana Bejarano said. “I just want her to really think about what sadness she’s caused to our family.”
It’s unclear if Mena could face more charges in connection with the crash, but there is precedent in Texas for repeat DWI drivers being charged with felony murder. That driver had five priors, however. Other states, like California, require drunk driving offenders to sign documents putting them on notice that they can be charged with murder if they ever get behind the wheel intoxicated again and kill someone.
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