TYLER, Texas (KETK) – A Tyler man has been indicted in connection with the death of a man who was a passenger in his car during a wreck in January.
22-year-old Juan Juarez is accused of leaving the scene of an accident early in the morning on January 23. A man in the back seat, Marco Antonio Lopez-Penado, died from his injuries. Juarez is charged with “accident involving death,” a second-degree felony in Texas.
As of this writing, his first court hearing has not yet been scheduled.
An arrest warrant obtained by KETK News at the time said that the car Juarez was driving traveled south on Tenneha Ave, went through a stop sign, and crashed through a fence into a backyard. Juarez is accused of running away from the wreck with another man, leaving Lopez-Penado in the back seat.
When detectives arrived, they found Lopez-Penado dead in the back seat with a large chest wound and a fence post that had gone through the car and matched the shape of his wound.
Police also found a beer can, a shot glass, an empty liquor bottle, and a plastic bag with “green leafy residue.”
Juarez initially claimed that the car had been stolen with him after a fight and had punched the window as it was driving away. He also said that other various scrapes and blood on his body were from a woman. The officer interviewing him said that his story did not make sense and Juarez then asked to speak to a lawyer.
Detectives then interviewed Lopez-Penado’s father who said that Juarez called him to say that his son was “very intoxicated. The father also said that the call was “brief and odd.”
One of Lopez-Penado’s former coworkers from John Soules Foods said that he was at a party with him the night of the crash. They were drinking beer and taking shots, according to the warrant.
The coworker said that he wanted to leave, but Lopez-Penado wanted to stay. Juarez offered to give Lopez-Penado a ride home so the coworker left. He also doubted Jaurez’s story that his car was stolen after a fight, saying he never knew Lopez-Penado of behaving like that.
Investigators then spoke to the man who was the front seat passenger the night of the wreck. He said that Juarez and Lopez-Penado tried to fight each other after pulling over. They were both intoxicated and the passenger was able to separate them.
He then said that they were trying to resolve their issues and that Juarez turned his head to the back of the car. After that, the car blew through a stop sign and crashed into the fence. The passenger took off running immediately after the crash because he was “on pre-trial release… and he must refrain from consuming alcohol or associating with anyone who is drinking.”
Juarez is awaiting court dates after being released from jail on April 14. If convicted, he is facing up to 20 years in prison.