By Chelle Delaney: QCS Staff
A Santa Rosa man prosecutors said contributed to the death of two people by buying alcohol for a drunken driver and accompanying the driver in the vehicle pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and great bodily injury on Thursday in Quay County district court.
“The passenger was prosecuted as if he were the driver,” Deputy District Attorney Don Schutte said, because the passenger purchased the alcohol, participated with the driver in drinking and did not stop the driver from driving.
The case is important because it puts people who allow others to become intoxicated and drive on notice that they can face criminal charges, Schutte said.
Patrick Marquez pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide and three counts of causing great bodily injury in connection with the deaths of Jose Rojas, 43, and Ellia Toga, 30. They died in a collision on Interstate 40 at mile marker 318 in Quay County on Aug. 19, 2005, according to Schutte and a New Mexico State Police press release.
The driver of the car, Leo A. Lucero, 30, also of Santa Rosa, is charged with vehicular homicide and causing great bodily injury and other traffic violations, according to the release.
The charges against Lucero have not been heard. A competency hearing for Lucero is scheduled in April, Schutte said.
Marquez, 22, who faces up to 19 years in jail, is expected to be sentenced in 30 days, Schutte said. He could have faced up to 29 years in prison if the case had gone to trial, Schutte said.
Marquez has been placed in the custody of his parents until the sentencing. Tenth Judicial Court Judge Ricky D. Purcell ordered Marquez not to leave the state, not to drive and not to break any laws. Marquez must also observe a curfew from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.
Marquez also has a DWI conviction from 2004 in Guadalupe County, Purcell said during court proceedings.
Schutte said Marquez and Lucero were together Aug. 19, 2005, at the Pecos bar in Santa Rosa. They were refused any more drinks and kicked out of the bar, he said.
Marquez then bought a 12-pack of beer, Schutte said. On their way from Santa Rosa to Tucumcari, they drank seven of the 12 beers before their car clipped the rear end of a van carrying 13 people from Mexico, including Rojas and Toga, Schutte said.
The van swerved to the left and rolled over across the interstate. The Lucero and Marquez vehicle swerved to the right, onto the shoulder and beyond, Schutte said.
Lucero’s blood alcohol level was 0.19, while Marquez’ was 0.15, Schutte said. The legal limit in New Mexico is 0.08.