Victim's family pleaded for ruling; Still, 'a lot of mixed emotions'
MADRAS, Ore. (KTVZ) -- “We’re asking for $100,000 (bail) -- that is still a significant amount," Sergio Suarez-Sanchez's defense lawyer said Wednesday in a Jefferson County courtroom.
Under Oregon law, to be released from jail, someone must put up 10% of the bail amount, so in this case, that would be $10,000. It's an amount that the family of the 36-year old defendant had been working to save -- as his bail had been set at $500,000, meaning $50,000 would have to be posted.
But prosecutors, citing Suarez-Sanchez's history, urged Judge Annette Hillman to go the other direction entirely, and order him held without bail. And that's what Hillman ruled, as the Madras man was denied bail.
He's accused of drunk driving and killing 56-year-old Annamarie Wallace of Metolius in a head-on collision on Jan. 17.
Suarez-Sanchez is charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter, as well as third-degree assault, DUII and second-degree criminal mischief. He has pleaded not guilty. A pre-trial conference is set for Oct. 5.
Family members of the victim also appeared in court, pleading to have the option of bail denied altogether.
"Sergio took away not only my mom, but my best friend," the victim's daughter, Hanne Davis, said as she teared up in the courtroom.
The victim's sister, Theresa Wallace, also struggled to keep her composure as she spoke of the impact her sister, who had been a nurse, had in the community: "I know I need to forgive, but I can’t do that right now."
Sanchez's lawyer, Shelby Thomas, argued that his family and commitments are likely reasons why he wouldn't be a flight risk.
“He has a business here -- Priority Painting, where he has clients ongoing, as well as employees that he continues to work with," the lawyer said. "He also has future jobs lined up.”
Thomas proposed that if granted release, he stay under supervision.
The lawyer representing the victim's family responded that many of the arguments cited in favor of the defendant's release are factors that were in place when he allegedly drove drunk.
"The defendant was already on supervision within our community, the defendant already had an alcohol condition while he was in our community," the lawyer said. "He was already running a business in our community, and nevertheless, he still chose to drive while his blood alcohol content was a .096."
Several of the victim's family members pleaded their case as to why Suarez-Sanchez should not be able to walk free before the planned October trial.
Theresa Wallace said, "After all, we are all human, and we all make mistakes. On the other side of this, mistakes that are continually repeated become decisions.”
Suarez-Sanchez's criminal history includes aggravated animal abuse, menacing, assault, criminal trespass, initiating a false police report and more over the span of 17 years. He was also on parole at the time of the fatal crash.
In consideration of the arguments made, the judge announced the verdict.
"Therefore, the court is finding by clear and convincing evidence, there is a danger to members of the public if the defendant is being released, and bail is being denied,” Hillman said.
Davis shared her reaction to the news.
"I’m happy, because I feel like justice is finally starting to be served for the community of drunk drivers," she said. "And also I feel sad for his family, you know? I know they’re going through a hard time. Just a lot of mixed emotions, I guess."