Edinburg woman pleads not guilty in drunk driving case that left teen dead

A 37-year-old Edinburg woman who’s faced three prior drunk driving cases pleaded not guilty Monday afternoon to numerous charges stemming from a fatal crash last September, which left a 15-year-old girl dead and severely injured her 14-year-old friend.

A Hidalgo County grand jury on March 16 indicted Maricela Escobar on charges of intoxication manslaughter with a vehicle; intoxication assault with a vehicle causing serious bodily injury; accident involving serious bodily injury or death; accident involving serious bodily injury; and driving while intoxicated, third or more.

15-year-old girl dies in crash; Edinburg resident arrested (Opens in a new browser tab)

Escobar is accused of being intoxicated on Sept. 6 when she hit and killed Edinburg resident Liza Cavazos and seriously injured Donna resident Santiago Tapia.

The teens were walking a dog in the area of Owassa and Val Verde roads when Escobar hit them, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

“EMS arrived on scene shortly after where the female child victim was pronounced deceased. A second male victim was also struck by the vehicle causing serious bodily injury,” the affidavit for her arrest stated.

In a news release, DPS said that she failed to stop after hitting the pair.

After her arrest, which occurred shortly after the crash, she told DPS that she was driving 50 mph in a 30 mph zone when she thought she had hit a dog.

“I asked Ms. Escobar about the incident. She stated that she was driving the blue Tahoe west on Owassa Rd. from Valverde (sic) Rd. at approximately 50 mph in a 30 mph zone. Ms. Escobar stated that she thought she hit a dog but continued driving,” the affidavit says.

According to DPS, Escobar said she drank several beers from a 12-pack hours before the crash.

“Ms. Escobar stated that she had not consumed any alcohol since the time of the crash,” the affidavit stated.

DPS said in a news release that the agency obtained a search warrant for a blood specimen and that Escobar failed a series of standardized field sobriety tests and displayed signs of intoxication.

Escobar has a history of drunk driving.

On April 17, 2011, she was arrested on her first driving while intoxicated charge. Later that year, on Sept. 22, 2011, she was convicted and sentenced to 90 days in jail.

By Feb. 11, 2012, she had picked up her second DWI charge. In that case, she was convicted on April 4, 2012 and sentenced to one year in jail.

Aside from the Sept. 6 arrest, her last driving while intoxicated charge was on June 4, 2016.

Escobar was not convicted in this case and on May 21, 2018, the charge was dismissed after she successfully completed DWI court.

Escobar bailed out of the Hidalgo County Detention Center on Jan. 13 on a total of $55,000 in bonds and is on house arrest.