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Jury acquits man accused of killing teacher during violent McAllen chase

Posted: Friday, June 3, 2011 12:00 am

Jared Taylor The Monitor

EDINBURG — Erick Froilan Salinas had been running for his life for more than 14 months.

By late Thursday evening, he was a free man once again.

Jurors acquitted Salinas of manslaughter and two counts of aggravated assault after deliberating more than nine hours Thursday in the 275th state District Court.

The 21-year-old Alton man had been on trial for killing Mission schoolteacher Lori Gonzalez as he tried to flee the gunshots of robbers hot on his tail March 24, 2010.

Prosecutors and Salinas’ defense lawyer, Carlos Garcia, agreed that Salinas’ wreck at the intersection of 10th Street and Business 83 killed Gonzalez and left her son and husband severely injured.

Salinas had gone to pick up a friend’s pickup truck from a South 23rd Street shopping center when he noticed another truck close behind. As he made his way toward Hidalgo, the truck remained tight behind Salinas, so he turned around on South 10th Street, heading back toward the north.

The truck turned around, as well. And then gunfire erupted toward Salinas, who hit the gas pedal and tried to evade the unknown assailants.

Salinas collided with Gonzalez’s minivan at Business 83 after he honked while running the red light at the intersection. He bailed out of the truck while one of the men tailing him took the wheel and fled the scene.

McAllen police arrested Marcos Villalobos and Jose Antonio Mendez minutes after the wreck near the intersection of North 17th Street and Trenton Road. Mendez, 32, pleaded guilty to murder in January and received a 25-year prison sentence. Villalobos, 23, admitted his role in the crime and received a 30-year sentence.

Police found no drugs in the truck Salinas was driving and he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“I did not mean to hurt anyone and … I was scared because I was running for my life,” Salinas said in a statement to police investigators after the crash.

Prosecutors were left with a steep burden of proof to find Salinas guilty of manslaughter.

As he read the charges to the jury Thursday morning, Judge Juan Partida instructed jurors to find Salinas not guilty of the charges if causing the accident was “immediately necessary to avoid harm” to himself.

Prosecutors argued Salinas was reckless while running the red light that caused the wreck.

Jurors sided with Salinas’ defense, however, that the wreck was an accident and he was left with little choice amid the volley of gunfire that tailed him that day.

With a bullet recovered from the driver’s side head rest of the Ford F-150 that Salinas was driving, jurors apparently saw no other alternative for Salinas during the chase.

“Erick chose to run however he could,” Garcia said during his closing statement Thursday morning. “He was speeding. He was running for his life.”

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This site features federal criminal defense lawyer in McAllen Tx, Abogado, rgv personal injury lawyer, McAllen criminal defense attorney, Mission Texas, criminal lawyer, wrongful death lawyer, auto accident lawyer in McAllen Texas.

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