Three young women, two repeat drunken drivers, two horrific fatal crashes, four coffins.
And three years for the state of New Mexico to even attempt to bring the servers and bars to justice for allegedly serving the already drunk one more deadly drink for the road.
The crash that killed Del Lynn Peshlakai, 19, and sister Deshauna, 17, and the one that killed Mariah Arguello, 18, happened in March 2010. Yet the state Alcohol and Gaming Division and its parent agency, the Department of Regulation and Licensing, didn’t move forward on State Police citations against Blue Corn Cafe & Brewery in Santa Fe, El Alto Bar & Station just off Interstate 25 in rural San Miguel County, and servers at the bars until last month.
Does that send the message that the state takes its DWI problem and its regulation of liquor licensees “very seriously”?
To be clear, these DWI suspects were not law-abiding drivers just tipsy from one after-dinner cordial.
James Ruiz was out on bond on his fifth DWI arrest when he plowed his pickup into the Peshlakai family car. He’d had three beers and three shots of Crown Royal whiskey at the Blue Corn just before the crash, according to a State Police investigation, and had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.22 percent, almost three times the state’s presumed level of intoxication.
Cecilio Jaramillo had two DWI arrests under his belt when he careered the wrong way on Interstate 25 and killed Arguello and himself. His blood-alcohol level was an amazing 0.44, and State Police said he had been drinking and fighting at El Alto.
Regulation and Licensing spokesman S.U. Mahesh blames the state’s seemingly lackadaisical approach on “delay tactics by defense attorneys and a vacancy within the Alcohol and Gaming Division.”
But three years?
Either the state regulates liquor licensees and enforces over-serving penalties seriously, or it doesn’t. If it does, Gov. Susana Martinez needs to ask Regulation and Licensing why a three-year delay is acceptable.
Because to law-abiding New Mexicans – and especially the Peshlakai and Arguello families – it’s not.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.