Man pleads guilty in hit and run fatality

A Brownsville man charged with striking and killing a man with his vehicle on Padre Island Highway nearly a year ago pleaded guilty to the charges filed against him on Wednesday.

Juan Luis Rodriguez, 35, was arrested on March 11, 2019 and charged with criminal negligent homicide, accident involving death after he allegedly struck 79-year-old Nicolas Garza Torres on the 5700 block of Padre Island Highway.

On Tuesday, court records showed that Rodriguez appeared before Judge Benjamin Euresti, Jr. for the 107th state District Court to plead guilty to the charges.

According to the records, Rodriguez accepted a plea bargain in which he was offered a prison term of eight years for accident involving death, a second-degree felony, and 12 months with credit for time served for criminal negligent homicide, a state jail felony. The sentences are to run concurrently.

An indictment handed down by a grand jury on April 24 stated that Rodriguez allegedly fell sleep while driving as a result of severe sleep apnea, then left the scene of the accident without providing his name, address, registration number, or insurance information.

The charges accused Rodriguez of failing to render reasonable assistance to Torres, who was pronounced dead at the scene by Brownsville Police Department officers, according to a BPD news release regarding the accident.

Brownsville PD stated in the release that officers responded to the accident last year at around 10:40 a.m. on March 11. According to the department, officers spoke with witnesses who saw Torres riding his bicycle on the shoulder lane on Padre Island Highway when a white SUV struck him and drove away from the scene.

Officers located the white SUV at a nearby residence and identified Rodriguez as the driver, the release stated.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com