LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A 22-year-old Lufkin woman pleaded guilty in the hit-and-run death of a bicyclist on Christmas Day 2013 shortly before her jury trial was scheduled to start Tuesday.
The jury is now deliberating Jennifer Isabel Mireles' sentence, and the sentencing portion of the trial is expected to last through Wednesday. The sentencing portion of the trial is taking place in Judge Paul White's 159th Judicial District Court.
An Angelina County grand jury indicted Mireles on a second-degree felony charge of injury accident involving death back in March.
A Lufkin Police investigation revealed that Mireles was driving a gray Mazda Protégé on Chestnut Street when she slammed into a bicycle ridden by Alexander Jensen, 22, and fled the scene.
Jensen died at the scene of the accident that night. Mireles turned herself into authorities a few days later.
District Attorney Art Bauereiss told the jury during opening arguments that Jensen and his girlfriend were on their bikes because neither of them had a car. They were out to get a Christmas present from a friend in downtown Lufkin and go to a convenience store.
Mireles hit the back of the victim's bike, Bauereiss said. He added she didn't stop or call for help for the victim in the accident but goes home instead.
During her opening statements, Lisa Flournoy, Mireles' defense attorney, told the jury the whole situation is simply a tragedy. Mireles was glancing down to see if she could find her wallet, which she usually keeps under the seat. Flournoy said although the defendant knew she hit the bike, she panicked, went home, and contacted an attorney.
Flournoy said Mireles voluntarily turned over her cell phone and vehicle. In addition, Mireles gave a statement to LPD investigators about what happened on Christmas night, Flournoy said.
The defense attorney also reminded the jurors that Mireles didn't receive any traffic citations for the incident and urged the jury to give her client probation.
After Bauereiss called Alison McCreary, the victim's girlfriend to the stand, she explained that she and Jensen were both riding their bikes on Christmas night. She said her bike had a flashing red light on the back of it, but Jensen's dJensen'sve any safety features. McCreary added that she was riding behind Jensen because her light was working.
McCreary said they were going to different stores to get quarters, so they could wash their clothes back at their apartment.
At one point, McCreary heard an engine, and then a car swerved around her and hit Jensen. She said he flew up in the air and didn't move after he hit the ground.
McCreary said she called 911 and sat with her boyfriend, who was bleeding from his ear, until emergency personnel arrived on the scene. She told the jurors that she knew Jensen was still breathing because she put her hand on his chest to check.
During her testimony, McCreary said that she didn't pay much attention to the car that hit Jensen. She did recall that the vehicle stopped briefly at a red light, but the driver ran the red light and didn't come back.
McCreary said Jensen was weaving into the lane because he was happy and having fun on his bike because it was Christmas.
Bauereiss left the courtroom and brought the victim's mangled bike into the courtroom.
McCreary told police that she didn't see any headlights and both she and Jensen were wearing white jackets on the night of the accident.
McCreary said the best way to describe how her life has changed since the incident was PTSD. She said she still gets flashbacks from the night.
Flournoy asked McCreary if she knew that laws regarding biking at night that cyclist are required to have lights on their bike. McCreary agreed.
LPD Officer Brandon White said it only took about a minute to a minute and a half to get to the scene. White testified that the med unit came in and checked Jensen's vitals and determined he was deceased.
White said McCreary was distraught and that he tried to get her to calm down, so they could get her account of what happened.
Brad Davis, another Lufkin Police officer, said McCreary tried to be helpful, but she was very upset and emotional.
Davis said he went through video from a nearby business on the night of the hit-and-run and determined the car that hit Jensen was probably gray. Then police analyzed the car parts found at the scene and determined the make and model of the vehicle they were looking for.
Officers went to the defendant's house, processed the car for evidence, and towed it a LPD facility, Davis said. He said the defendant also let officers look at her phone and police took several pictures of text messages.
Davis then described pictures of the defendant's car that showed a shattered windshield and a dent in the door panel. He explained that it is not easy to dent a car like Mireles' Protégé in that location.
Mireles told police that she was scared, and as a result, she fled the scene. She drove to her home on Lee Avenue.
Defense attorney Lisa Flournoy asked Officer Davis during cross examination if he thought the area where the accident occurred was very dark. Davis said yes. Flournoy also pointed out that there was a fatality in the same area the same week involving a pedestrian. Then Davis agreed with Flournoy that Jensen's bike did not have the appropriate safety equipment on his bicycle.
Flournoy said if Mireles had stopped her car after the accident we wouldn't be sitting here in the courtroom today, and Davis agreed with her. He also confirmed that she did not receive any traffic citations for the night in question.
Flournoy asked Davis if in the other hit and run accidents he has worked if people who had left the scene left just because they were panicked and not because they were speeding, drinking, or texting. Davis said that every time there is always a reason why they leave.
The defense then called called Will Mackelroy as the fourth witness in the trial. He is a paramedic with the Lufkin Fire Department. Mackelroy said when he arrived on scene he took Jensen's vitals and said he did not get a heartbeat from Jensen. The EMT told the jury he didn't not believe Jensen's life could have been saved, even if anyone was on the scene before EMS arrived with emergency medical training.
When Sergeant Steven Abbott with the Lufkin Police Department took the stand, he said he was the one who interviewed Mireles when she came to the police state to give her videotaped statement.
In the taped interview, Mireles told police she reached down under her seat for her wallet because she normally kept it there. When she looked up, she saw someone. By then, it was too late to move her car, and she hit someone. She said she started freaking out and panicking and just went home. She said she didn't know what to do.
Toby Stanland with the Lufkin Police Department did the accident reconstruction of the accident on Christmas night. He said he determined Mireles' car was going between 35 MPH to 43 MPH at the time of the accident. The speed limit in the area is 45 mph.
After Mireles allegedly confessed to being the driver of the vehicle that struck Jensen, the Lufkin Police Department investigated further and confirmed that she was the driver involved in the hit-and-run accident.
According to the crash report, the driver of the car was driving southbound on South Chestnut Drive, while Jensen and his girlfriend were riding bicycles the same direction. The report states Jensen was riding in the outer lane of traffic and did not have lights on the back of his bicycle. His girlfriend was riding right next to the curb and had a red strobe light on the rear of her bicycle.
The driver hit Jensen's bicycle and knocked him approximately 125 feet down the road as he continued to drive. Jensen then hit the sidewalk and the driver kept going down the road.