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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fort Bliss soldier pleads guilty in DWI death trial

By ABC-7 Reporter/Anchor Celina Avila

EL PASO, Texas -- A Fort Bliss soldier pleaded guilty Monday to driving drunk and killing a young El Paso woman sitting at a red light. Now a jury must decide his punishment.

Defense attorneys for 37-year-old Edison Bayas say he is taking responsibility for the death of 19-year-old Valerie Talamantes.

District Attorney Jaime Esparza is personally trying the case. He urged the jury in opening statements to protect the community and send a message.

Defense attorneys, on the other hand, said Staff Sgt. Bayas suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time of the crash.

Bayas' attorney asked the jury to take into account that Bayas had served two tours in Iraq. He said Bayas was having a flashback at the time of the wreck.

The state called three people to the stand -- the police officer who investigated the scene and two employees of Redflex, the company that handles El Paso's red light cameras.

Jurors gasped when they saw the red light video capturing the crash.

It was Dec. 29, 2007 when Valerie was heading home, trying to make curfew. She was about a mile away from her house at the intersection of Montana and Hawkins when she was hit from behind. She died from the impact.

As jurors saw red light video and pictures, Bayas was noticeably shaken. He kept his head down and wiped his eyes at one point.

The jury heard Bayas had a blood alcohol level of .27, three times the legal limit, and that he was traveling no slower than 60 miles per hour when he slammed into Valerie's car.

Bayas is facing two to 20 years in prison. The punishment hearing will continue with Valerie's parents expected to take the stand on Tuesday.

Source

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