||02-12-2013 12:31 PM
Murder charges in revenge killing by father of children slain by drunk driver
I know how I would vote if I was on that jury...
An Alvin father remained in the Brazoria County Jail Monday, charged with murder in the alleged revenge killing of a drunk driver who plowed into his truck, killing his two young sons last December.
David Barajas Sr., 31, a construction worker, is being held in lieu of $450,000 bail in the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Jose Inez Banda minutes after the Dec. 7 crash that claimed the lives of Barajas' 11- and 12-year-old sons.
"The whole incident is extremely tragic," said Brazoria County sheriff's lead investigator, Dominick Sanders. "The grand jury reviewed it and has indicted him for murder."
Tests showed Banda's blood alcohol was twice the legal limit when his Chevrolet Malibu rear-ended the Barajas' family's Ford 250 truck that had run out of gas on an unlit county road near Alvin, investigators said. The inebriated driver failed to swerve or even apply his brakes before plowing into the truck and crushing Barajas' sons, David Jr., 12, and Caleb, 11.
The boys had been helping their father push their disabled truck and were less than 150 yards from their driveway when they were hit. Caleb was pronounced dead at the scene, and David Jr. died shortly after arrival at Memorial Hermann Hospital. Their father escaped serious injury.
Barajas' wife, Cindy, and their 8-year-old daughter and 3-month-old son, had remained seated inside the truck and were not hurt.
Several minutes after the crash, 911 operators began receiving phone calls about the accident and recorded a sound of gunfire. Investigators arrived at the scene to find Banda slumped in the front seat of his car with a bullet wound to his head. He never regained consciousness.
The weapon used in the shooting has not been found, said Brazoria County Sheriff's investigator Dominick Sanders.
During a two-month investigation, authorities located a witness who reported seeing David Barajas walk from the crash scene to his nearby home and return to Banda's car, after which the witness heard gunshots.
The witness was not close enough to see if Barajas had a weapon in his hand, Sanders said.
Investigators later searched Barajas' home, where they found an empty holster and some unused ammunition but no gun, Sanders said.
Both Barajas' and Banda's hands were checked for gun residue, but tests have not yet been completed.
DNA testing also remains underway on blood samples taken from Banda's vehicle.
A Brazoria County grand jury reviewed the evidence and heard testimony from Barajas before indicting him Friday for murder.
"His testimony is sealed and no statement about it can be released at this time," said Sanders.
Shortly after the accident, Barajas told relatives that he could not recall anything beyond rushing to the aid of his sons.
"It was worse than any movie scene because it was real," Barajas' brother, Gabriel, said. "The next thing my brother remembered was waking up in a hospital naked" after his clothing, drenched in his sons' blood, had been removed.
On Monday, Gabriel Barajas was shocked to learn his brother was in jail.
"I just knew he had been working to move forward in his life and take care of his two other children," he said.
Other Barajas family members could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, Banda's family has kept vigil, waiting for answers, by posting remembrances on a "rest in peace" Facebook page.
Felicia, Banda's wife, now raising their infant daughter alone, posted several comments just before the murder indictment was announced.
She wrote about missing Banda more than ever since his death two months earlier and told how she still proudly wears his picture on the back of her shirts and sweaters to remember him, "Because you still mean the world to me."
The Facebook page earlier had been a battleground, with angry postings by supporters of Banda, who complained of a vigilante killing, and supporters of Barajas, who described the boys' deaths as murders.
Sanders said grand jurors rejected a "crime of passion" defense because Barajas had time to reflect about what he was planning to do when investigators contend he went home to get a gun.
Barajas' neighbors say the family has moved from the house where they lived when the accident occurred.
"There's still two wooden crosses on the roadside where their boys died," said neighbor Michelle Tombs. "I bought some more permanent ceramic crosses to replace them. It's very sad. Their grandparents, who live across the street, hardly come outside much any more."