Houston man accused of two fatal wrecks in one day
A Houston man accused of causing a string of crashes while driving impaired was fleeing the scene of one fatal collision when he struck another vehicle, killing a 6-year-old boy inside, prosecutors told jurors Monday.
As family and friends of young Joshua Medrano sobbed softly, Harris County prosecutor Lynn Nguyen pointed to Blaine Boudreaux, 38, in the courtroom.
“You’re looking at Joshua Medrano’s killer,” Nguyen said in the opening of Boudreaux’s trial on felony murder.
Defense attorneys, however, told jurors that Boudreaux was not involved in the first crash that killed military veteran Leonard Batiste. The assertion marked the first time defense lawyers have tried to explain Boudreaux’s actions in the series of wrecks on April 26, 2015.
“They are not going to be able to prove that Mr. Boudreaux killed Leonard Batiste,” attorney Matt DeLuca said. “They certainly aren’t going to be able to prove that he intended to fail to stop and render aid.”
The trial begin in state District Judge Robert Johnson’s court shortly after a Houston Chronicle investigation found that the nine-county Houston region tallied more fatal impaired-driving crashes in the past 16 years than any other major metropolitan area in the country. A Chronicle analysis of federal highway data shows drivers and passengers died in more than 3,000 wrecks caused by drunk or drugged drivers, about 1,000 more than the Los Angeles area, which has twice the population.
OUT OF CONTROL: Houston is ‘ground zero’ for drunken and drugged driving
Boudreaux made international headlines when he was arrested on charges of DWI, failure to stop and render aid and two counts of intoxication manslaughter, accused of driving his black Dodge Ram pick-up while intoxicated on prescription medication and causing four wrecks in about two hours. Failure to stop and render aid is the legal charge for hit-and-run.
Instead of trying to convict Boudreaux on two counts of intoxication manslaughter, however, which would cap the punishment at 20 years in prison, Harris County prosecutors are trying to prove felony murder.
To get a conviction, they must convince jurors that Boudreaux was committing the felony of hit-and-run when he caused the fatal wreck that killed the Medrano child, who was riding home with his mother in a Honda Civic.
Boudreaux, who is free on bail, faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted of felony murder.
OUT OF CONTROL: Houston roads, drivers are country’s most deadly
After emotional opening statements Monday, prosecutors began calling witnesses to trace Boudreaux’s day beginning when he left his apartment near the Texas Medical Center at 3:03 p.m.
They saw video of Boudreaux allegedly rear-ending a woman and her daughter on Fannin near the Medical Center about 3:20 p.m., for which he was cited by a Houston police officer for failure to control his speed.
They also heard testimony from Joe Sexton, 78, who said Boudreaux rear-ended him at Weslayan and Westpark about 5 p.m. Sexton testified that Boudreaux was agitated because his son, who was born prematurely, was in Texas Children’s Hospital.
“It was pretty sad,” Sexton said.
A Houston police officer responded to that scene, but did not cite Boudreaux.
The two officers who responded to the wrecks but did not notice that Boudreaux may have been impaired were disciplined after an HPD internal investigation, Sean Teare, chief of the Vehicular Crimes unit of the Harris County District Attorney’s office, confirmed.
READ MORE: Timeline of four alleged wrecks in one day
After those two minor wrecks, Boudreaux is accused of running up onto a curb about 15 minutes later on Texas Spur 5 near the University of Houston and running over Batiste, 61, who was collecting scrap metal with a shopping cart.
Batiste’s body was found the next day.
Just minutes after that fatal wreck, Boudreaux allegedly ran the red light at Lockwood and Interstate 10, hitting Cynthia Medrano’s Honda and killing her son.
In the aftermath of that crash, witnesses allegedly saw Boudreaux dumping pill bottles down a street grate to conceal them, prosecutors said. No pill bottles were ever recovered.
The trial is expected to last about a week.
Brian Rogers covers Houston crime and courts. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @brianjrogers.