Bond reduced for woman charged with murder in crash that killed Mercedes High School senior

Weslaco police display a photo on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, of 27-year-old Daena Nicole Gonzalez who was charged with murder for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol, leading police on a chase and killing an 18-year-old teen. (Dina Arévalo | [email protected])

A judge on Wednesday afternoon reduced the $1 million bond for a 27-year-old Pharr woman accused of leading Progreso’s police chief on a chase following a drunk driving traffic stop and killing an 18-year-old Mercedes High School senior in a fiery Weslaco crash as a result.

Daena Gonzalez, who was hospitalized after the April 30 crash and needed the use of a wheelchair Wednesday, appeared via video conferencing in front of state District Judge Mario E. Ramirez Jr. for the hearing.

Gonzalez was charged with murder for the death of Jaime Garcia Jr., who was on his way to visit friends at the time of his death.

She has not yet been indicted.

Weslaco Police Chief Joel Rivera speaks about the death of 18-year-old Jaime Garcia Jr., shown right, from a fatal collision on April 30. Rivera said Daena Nicole Gonzalez has been charged with murder for Garcia’s death. (Dina Arévalo | [email protected])

The fatal sequence of events began at 7:16 p.m. that day when someone called Mid-Valley Communications Center to report a woman in a blue Ford Explorer was vomiting at a Stripes on the corner of Military Highway and Farm-to-Market Road 1015.

Progreso Police Chief Cesar Solis responded and intercepted Gonzalez on FM 1015, just south of Baker Road.

The chief suspected Gonzalez was intoxicated and requested back-up from the Texas Department of Public Safety, but before troopers arrived, Gonzalez, who had been outside of her vehicle, got back in and took off.

The chase headed to Weslaco and ended when Gonzalez hit Garcia’s vehicle. The 18-year-old was pinned inside the vehicle, which instantly became engulfed in flames.

Weslaco police said her speedometer was stuck at 90 mph after the crash.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Gonzalez’s attorney, O. Rene Flores, told Ramirez, the judge, that his client is a lifelong resident of the Rio Grande Valley.

At the time of the crash, she worked as a clerk for the Edinburg Children’s Clinic, which Flores said would continue to employ her despite the circumstances.

The attorney also said that her family has been able to raise a little more than $10,000 for her bond and asked the judge to lower her bond to $100,000.

The Honda Pilot on fire with the remains of a Kia Optima behind it, Saturday, April 30, 2022, in Weslaco. (F. Ray Gaskin | Special to The Monitor)

Prosecutor Jay Garza, however, told the judge the state was opposed to any bond reduction, citing the tragic nature of the case that began with a traffic stop that set off a chain of events that resulted in Garcia’s death.

He also pointed to two counts of abandoning or endangering a child that police charged Gonzalez with in February.

Garza said those charges stemmed from a hit-and-run collision because she left her two minor children unattended in a car after leaving the scene of the crash.

The prosecutor described her as a significant risk to the community.

After hearing arguments, Ramirez reduced her bond to $750,000.

Gonzalez remained jailed Wednesday at the Hidalgo County Adult Detention Center.