A stiff sentence was handed down to Jaime Alvarado, a serial drunk-driving twice-deported illegal alien, who killed Nashville businessman Robert Benn shortly after he arrived in Austin for a new job.
Benn was driving from the airport when his car was struck by the inebriated Alvarado as the Guatemalan was fleeing police because he feared being deported.
In a cruel coincidence for the family, Benn’s granddaughter was born a few hours before he was killed, so he never got to meet her. Robert Benn was 64 and had three children.
Repeat drunken driver gets 50 years for fatal wreck , Austin Statesman, September 15, 2010
A drunken driver who caused a fatal accident while fleeing police in East Austin last year was sentenced to 50 years in prison Wednesday by a Travis County jury.
Jaime Bonilla Alvarado, 24, had pleaded guilty earlier in the week to murder in the death of Robert Benn, 64, an information technology consultant from Nashville, Tenn., who was in Austin on business.
Alvarado is a construction worker from Honduras who prior to the Aug. 31, 2009, crash had been convicted of drunken driving three times and deported twice. Some of Alvarado’s family members cried when the verdict was read in state District Judge Jim Coronado’s court.
After the verdict, Benn’s daughter Andrea McKee took the witness stand and told Alvarado that she often thinks of her father’s last moments, alone in a strange city. She told Alvarado that her daughter was born earlier the day of Benn’s death.
Benn’s wife, Sherrie Benn, said: “I wanted justice for Bob. I think we got justice.”
Alvarado faced from five years to life in prison. During closing arguments, his lawyer, Brad Urrutia, asked for 25 years.
“He is remorseful, and he is repentant.”
Prosecutor Erika Sipiora asked for 50 years. She noted that according to Alvarado’s testimony, he was warned four times the night of the crash not to drive drunk: by two store clerks, a friend and his wife.
For the second time in the trial, she showed video of the smoky crash, taken by a police officer’s dashboard camera.
“Where on this video does it show that Jaime Alvarado was taking into consideration anyone but himself?” she asked.
Earlier in the day, Alvarado took the stand and told the jury about his life. He said he grew up poor and received only an elementary school education in the small Honduran town of Santa Rita Yoro.
He said he first came to the United States in 2005, when he was 19, but was caught on his way to Houston and deported. He said he returned soon after and settled with his twin sister and two brothers in Austin.
All three of his DWI arrests were in East Austin in 2006 and 2007. He did not show up for court each time, and when he was finally arrested, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 80 days in jail. He was later convicted in federal court of illegal re-entry by a deported alien and was deported again.
Alvarado said he returned to the U.S. within a month of his deportation and worked as a construction worker. He testified that he worked on a house near Loop 360 on the day of the crash — a Monday. He said that after work, he bought a 24-ounce Dos Equis beer, a 12-pack of Corona beer and a six-pack of Dos Equis. He drank most of the beer, he said, in a park and in his Lincoln Navigator near a disco on East Riverside Drive.
He was heading home when he drove north on Pleasant Valley Road past a police car and the officer noticed him speeding and playing loud music, according to testimony.
Alvarado did not stop, even though officer Christopher Geck turned on his lights and sirens attempting to make a traffic stop. Alvarado said he was afraid of being deported and ultimately decided he would try to drive home before being arrested so his SUV would not be impounded. [. . .]
Alvarado, who had a 0.20 blood alcohol level, 21/2 times the legal limit, suffered only minor injuries.