Donna man charged in fatal drug overdose in downtown McAllen pleads not guilty

Jose Raquel Lerma

A Donna man accused of selling cocaine laced with fentanyl to four men in a downtown McAllen bar late last year, killing one, pleaded not guilty Friday morning to a five-count indictment against him.

Jose Raquel Lerma, 31, appeared for the arraignment via video-conferencing from the Hidalgo County Adult Detention Center where he was charged with four counts of manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance resulting in death and serious bodily injury and a count of manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance.

He’s accused of selling 29-year-old Sergio Sanchez, who played trombone for Brownsville’s Banda La Nueva Generación de Chuy Hernandez, on Nov. 14 at the Old Beer House.

“Upon arriving at location they learned it appeared that four males were consuming narcotics in a men’s bathroom stall. While processing the scene and rendering aid to the subjects officers located cocaine wrapped in distinctive and unique packaging on two of the four males,” an affidavit for his arrest states.

Cellphone video of the overdoses circulated widely on social media.

Video obtained by investigators and distinct drug packaging helped authorities identify Lerma as their suspect, according to the affidavit.

“I reviewed the video and it showed Jose Lerma AKA ‘Pelon’ at the ‘Old Beer House’ interacting with the males who were later found unresponsive specifically Sergio Sanchez (Deceased male) prior to officers arriving on scene. In the video it shows Sergio Sanchez to be in good health,” the affidavit states.

During the routine arraignment proceeding Friday, 332nd state District Judge Mario E. Ramirez Jr.  asked about Lerma’s bonds.

Lerma’s defense attorney, Dan Mora III, had actually subpoenaed Lerma’s bondsman, Norman Cordova, for the hearing.

Mora told Lerma that Cordova is evading service of that subpoena.

Lerma and Ramirez also discussed what may be discrepancies in the bond amounts and issues with changes that happened with the bonds that haven’t been entered into the court record.

At the end of the hearing, Ramirez said he wants Cordova to appear in front of him and recommended Mora’s office file criminal charges and that the District Attorney’s Office be notified of what Ramirez called “outrageous behavior.”

As for Lerma, the record indicates that all his bonds had been “pulled from ‘jailings’ module in order to expedite arraignment” on May 24.

He had been out on bond but after that happened he was picked up and booked back into jail.

Ramirez set $20,000 bonds Friday on all five counts for a total of $100,000.

And Lerma’s family had already paid a total of $26,000 in bonds previously, securing his release.

He’s scheduled to be back in court in August.


Donna man accused of selling fentanyl-laced cocaine that killed man at downtown McAllen bar indicted

Records: Drug packaging, video link Donna man to overdoses