Sergeant was just 10 days back from Iraq when he plowed into popular teen’s car.
Army Staff Sgt. Edison Bayas, 37, pleaded guilty Monday to intoxicated manslaughter in connection with the Dec. 29, 2007 death of 19-year-old Valerie Talamantes, a popular graduate of Burges High School in El Paso, and he opted to let a jury decide whether he should spend two to 20 years in prison, the El Paso Times reported.
Bayas had arrived in El Paso from Iraq just 10 days before the crash that killed Talamantes as she waited for a light to change at the intersection of Montana Avenue and Hawkins Boulevard, and prosecutors said his blood alcohol level at the time of the crash was 0.27, more than three times the legal limit, the Times said.
After the crash, Bayas told police he had been having a flashback that caused him to think he was rushing to help his men in Iraq, the paper reported.
District Attorney Jaime Esparza urged the jury who will decide Bayas’ punishment to treat the defendant — a member of the U.S. Army’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based at Fort Bliss — as they would any civilian, the Times said.
Bayas’ attorney Miguel Villalba told jurors that his client suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving two tours of duty in Iraq, the paper reported.
During Bayas’ first tour, his best friend died in a roadside bomb explosion and Bayas had to pull his remains from the vehicle, Villalba told jurors.
By the end of his second tour, Villalba said, Bayas’ wife had asked for a divorce and he was living alone in an apartment and began drinking heavily to help him sleep.
Testimony at the sentencing hearing resumes today in the 210th District Court, the Times said.