Needville mother fights for justice after daughter died following crash on Highway 36

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by Jacqueline Crea / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on May 16, 2014 at 10:58 PM

Updated Saturday, May 17 at 7:49 PM

NEEDVILLE, Texas – “This is her. This is her urn,” said Griselda Garza as she pointed to her daughter's ashes in an urn sitting on a living room mantle.

It's all she has left of her daughter.

"I miss her so much," said Garza.

Her daughter's name was Cecilia and she died in a car accident, just days before her 21st birthday. She was making a left turn into the party rental store Jumpin' Jacks on busy Highway 36.

Surveillance video showed what happened when a 79-year-old man slammed into the back of Duran's car, pushing her into oncoming traffic.

Recordings from the 911 call describe the magnitude of the crash.

"The one that's in the middle of the road is stuck in the car. They can't get her out," said the 911 operator.

People ran out to help and Cecilia was taken by Life Flight to Memorial Hermann Hospital Downtown. Garza met her badly injured daughter at the hospital.

"She said she was just moaning. Like if she was in pain," said Garza, recounting what employees at the Jumpin' Jack store told her. Cecilia Duran would never recover.

"Do you want to unplug her now. And I didn't. I wanted to give her more time," said Garza.

She died 32 days later, but Garza's pain was just beginning. The driver of the other car, the one Garza held responsible for Cecilia's death, got off with just a ticket for wreckless driving.

She wondered where's the justice?

"This man tore our family apart. I don't even know what he looks like. I don't even know who he is. I could be driving next to him or one of my kids," said Garza.

Garza wanted answers, but says authorities were no help. After much trying, she finally reached a DPS Trooper and asked why the man who hit her daughter had walked away virtually free and clear.

"He said that he was given a ticket, that's done and over with. That’s because she died after 30 days from the accident they don't consider her death his fault," said Garza.

But this mother knew, it wouldn't be the end of her fight.

Turns out Griselda was right. She wasn't getting the answers she deserved. KHOU 11 News reached out to DPS to find out why something hadn't been done. They admitted that they had dropped the ball.

"We are human. We made a mistake. It should've been done right then and there but once you brought it to our attention, we took it and went straight to the DA's Office," said DPS Spokesperson Trooper Erik Burse.

When Cecilia Duran died from her injuries, the Fort Bend County District Attorney should have been notified. But because the girl died more than a month after the accident, the case was filed differently, no longer labeling it as a fatality.

"After 30 days, it’s not considered a fatality report, but that doesn't mean we are through. That doesn't mean it's over and that doesn't mean the person who is responsible has a chance to get away," said Burse.

Now the case is being reopened and may go before a grand jury.

"We want to know the truth and as much of the truth as possible so we can make a determination whether or not there is a criminal act involved here," said John Healey, the Fort Bend County District Attorney.

The DA's Office will conduct their own investigation with the help of DPS, to potentially present it to a grand jury.

"But we want the Duran family to know yes we did make a mistake, but we are not ashamed to say it and we are going to do what we have to do to fix it," said Burse.

Now this mother says she can move on with her life, knowing she's done everything she could for her daughter.

"I thank god for the day you walked into our life because something's being done," said Garza.

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