Unlicensed driver charged with manslaughter for crash that killed 18-year-old

Bernadette Gonzales (Hays County Jail Photo)
Bernadette Gonzales (Hays County Jail Photo)

HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Police say Bernadette Gonzales was driving without a license and had been drinking alcohol and using meth hours before a December crash that killed an 18-year-old passenger.

In fact, Gonzales, 21, has never had a driver’s license, according to an arrest affidavit. At 5:35 a.m. on Dec. 20, she was running late in getting the passengers in her car to work when a tire blew out and she lost control while driving northbound on Interstate 35 near exit 213, close to Ranch to Market 150 in Kyle.

Frank Ramos, 18, was found on the side of the road, not breathing. He was flown to a local hospital where he died two days later. On Monday, nearly five months after the deadly crash, Gonzales was charged with manslaughter, a second degree felony.

Gonzales told police that she was going about 65 miles per hour when it happened. She told officers she tried braking and turning the wheel, sending the car into a ditch. Officers say she was driving her car without insurance and wasn’t wearing a seat belt. According to an affidavit, Gonzales was driving on only around four hours of sleep. Two hours after the crash her alcohol level was tested at 0.034.

Hays County District Attorney Wes Mau says cases involving unlicensed drivers follow the same process in court as cases involving licensed drivers.

“Whether a driver is licensed or not, generally for the types of cases we’re dealing with, it’s a factor to consider, but it doesn’t have any real legal consequence,” Mau said.

Less than two weeks later, on New Year’s Eve — not yet in custody — Gonzales was arrested and charged with aggravated robbery, theft and 11 counts of credit card abuse after police say she stole a checkbook from the Hopkins Street H-E-B in San Marcos.

An officer spotted Gonzales walking across Thorpe Lane and stopped her. She said her grandmother had given her the checkbook along with credit cards and driver’s license.

While speaking to her, the officer saw a blue cylinder in her pants, noticing she was trying to push it further into her jeans. Five Bud Light beer cans were found in her pants and bra.

H-E-B employees told the officer they tried to stop her from stealing from the victim, but Gonzales pulled a knife out and pointed the blade at them as she was leaving.

She was booked into the Hays County Jail, where she remains.

The DA says sometimes filing charges takes time.

“Lots of times there is forensic evidence that needs to be tested. That testing can take weeks or months to get done. There may be follow up investigations that need to be completed,” Mau added. “Sometimes the wheels of justice turn slowly.”

Unlicensed driver data was not available for Hays County on Wednesday.

However in Austin, according to APD, the total number of drivers involved in fatal crashes who have suspended licenses or no licenses at all in 2015 and 2016 amounts to nearly 50. Police say there were 31 in 2015 and 18 in 2016.

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