In a Dallas Courtroom Today, Heather VanHoozer's Parents Faced the Drunk Driver Who Killed Her

Categories: Crime

vanhoozer_family.jpg
Mark Graham
Debra and Alan VanHoozer lost their daughter to a drunken-driving accident.
The prosecutor asked Alan VanHoozer how he knew Heather.

"I'm Heather's father," Alan said, his voice struggling to finish the sentence. Not long after, he broke down and cried.

Heather VanHoozer was 24 when she was killed by a drunk driver almost a year ago. She was supposed to start nursing school at Texas Woman's University. She died on her way to the market, in a car driven by her boyfriend, Sean Bass, a radio personality at KTCK-AM 1310 The Ticket.

See also:
The Ticket's Sean Bass and His Sobering Stance on Driving Drunk

heathervan.jpg
Courtesy of Debra and Alan VanHoozer
Heather VanHoozer
As Bass drove his car down West Centerville Road, he saw an out-of-control Ford Expedition speed over the median. The driver, Osvaldo Cerda, T-boned Bass' car.

When the Observer profiled Heather and her family in a cover story this January, her parents were still struggling to cope. Today, her family faced Cerda for the first time.

He was lead into the courtroom at 10:30, dressed in a gray jumpsuit. "I plead guilty," he said softly, looking down. He waved his right to a jury trial and instead is undergoing a one-day trial by judge.

In Alan's emotional testimony, he recounted getting a call from his wife, Debra. Something in her voice didn't sound right, he said. She told him that Sean and Heather were in a car wreck, and Heather had been transported to Baylor Hospital.

cerda.jpg
Osvaldo Cerda
At the hospital, Alan, Debra and Bass waited for word from the doctors. "I said a couple prayers and asked the Lord to watch over Heather," Alan said. Doctors would later walk out and say there was nothing they could do.

The last time Alan saw Heather, she was laying on a hospital gurney. "I didn't want to see her that way but I had to see her that way," Alan recalled. "They hadn't cleaned her up yet. She had blood coming out of her mouth, her nose and her eye. That's the last image I remember of my daughter."

After Alan's testimony, Cerda's attorney had no objections: "I want to express my deepest condolences, I'm a father too."

A witness to the wreck, Kenneth Golsby, chased after Cerda as he tried to run away. Golsby testified this morning that Cerda had stopped briefly to see what he'd done. "Is she OK?" Cerda asked, according to Golsby's account. Then he took off.

Judge Dominique Collins is expected to issue a sentence for Cerda by the end of today. The most he can receive under a conviction of intoxication manslaughter is 20 years behind bars. But because Cerda isn't a U.S. citizen, his attorney said he would likely be deported.



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50 comments
chunkyjones
chunkyjones

But because Cerda isn't a U.S. citizen, his attorney said he would likely be deported............and then he will come right back and kill some other American's daughter. Thanks pro amnesty politicians.

Threeboys
Threeboys

Obama and his group of idiots will grant this fella a voters card in no time.

Not that you should need one.

Daniel
Daniel

waived not waved


I don't enjoy being a Nazi, but this is the THIRD time I've seen this particular error in these "pages."


hilllbillle
hilllbillle

 this animal should be delivered in shackles and chains to the girls family to do as they please with it.

lzippitydoo
lzippitydoo

How many of these DWI non-US citizens in manslaughter cases! So many - they dont all need to be listed. The killer should serve his sentence in jail and then be deported when he gets out! Would you deport him so he is off the hook when he gets back to Mexico?? As a father - my sentence would be a lot harsher on this guy and imposed by my friend - Charles Bronson!

epicmale
epicmale

He should have been deported YEARS ago!  A thug criminal given a pass for political correctness...  Give him the maximum sentence, and after he serves all of it, THEN deport him.

Dan Pettit
Dan Pettit

To Heather's family and Sean Bass, I am deeply sorry for your loss. Deport him to Antarctica.

don.abbott
don.abbott

Way to go amigo!  You came to the most welcoming country on earth, had a baby at Parkland, probably got a Lone Star card, got loaded and killed someone.  But don't worry, with our immigration checks and balances patterned after the Burmese power grid, you can come back after the smoke clears.  America is a dying country.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

The habitual dui's of illegals is particularly galling. They just come back and do it again. My solution for their deportation is to let em drink as much of their favorite potion as they want, then toss em in the Rio Grande to swim back. If they make it, ok. If not, Justice.

leftocenter
leftocenter

The article says he is not a US citizen, it DOES NOT say he is an illegal alien.  This is a drunk driving tragedy not an immigration issue. 

DirtyP1
DirtyP1

So if I hit and kill someone in his country, I'm stuck in a Mexican prison, but if he does it here, he gets deported and no prison? Wow. Can't we at least do a prisoner exchange of some type?

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

" But because Cerda isn't a U.S. citizen, ..."

And illegal immigration has no effects upon the ordinary citizen or society.

I am not surprised that he did jump out and try to run away never to be found again. After all, what is one more illegal act ...

Ricky Bobbie
Ricky Bobbie

Since we're on the topic of drunk drivers killing people, did they ever arrest the Couch kid who killed 4 people in Burleson? I recall that he was over 3 times the legal limit and and had been in trouble 2 previous times involving alcohol and driving.

Ash Cline
Ash Cline

So the punishment is deportation? Make an example of him and don't waste tax payers money while you're at it...

Steve Handy
Steve Handy

Deport him so he can crawl right back in, assume a new identity and it's like nothing ever happened? Brilliant.... The deportation should have happened before he killed an innocent citizen.

Shaun Lenerose
Shaun Lenerose

Deportation is not a punishment fitting to the crime...in my opinion...that is getting off easy if that happens

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@leftocenter The article says that he is currently on an immigration hold.  He would not be on an immigration hold if he was a US citizen.  It is reasonable to conclude that he is either in the country without authorization ("Illegal alien"), has overstayed his visa, or has violated the terms of his visa.  I'm thinking that the first one is most likely based upon his attempting to flee the scene of the accident.  This is a fairly common response to an accident by persons who are in the country without authorization ("Illegal aliens").


Most people are making the correlation, and resultant causality, that if immigration laws were enforced this person would not be in the country without authorization ("Illegal alien") and therefor would not have been able to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence ("drunk driving") and be the root cause for the death of Ms. VanHoozer.


While it does not rule our that Ms. VanHoozer would have died as the result of another person driving under the influence, the deduction above does rule out that Ms. VanHoozer would not have been killed by this person who was in the country without authorization ("Illegal alien") and was driving a vehicle while under the influence ("drunk driving").


PS: Please go read the last sentence in the article, reprinted here for your convenience:

"But because Cerda isn't a U.S. citizen (Emphasis added), his attorney said he would likely be deported."

johnnyblaze36
johnnyblaze36

@leftocenterWhy do leftist morons always feel the need to defend illegal aliens?  If you did your homework you would know that this guy had been arrested three times previously on drug charges and it was known each time that he was here illegally yet he was allowed to remain here.  It is an illegal immigration issue just as much as it is a drunk driving tragedy and the judges that let him off after the first, second, and third offenses should all be disbarred.

ElFlaco714
ElFlaco714

@leftocenter Surely you are correct, he is probably an electrical engineer working under an H-1B visa.  That is far more likely than the possibility that he is an illegal alien. 

Threeboys
Threeboys

And he can rent an apartment in Farmers Branch.

Pretty soon he will be able to vote.

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul I just hope the family got some closure and my thoughts are with them and we somehow stop this guy from ever coming back...If I remember correctly (I could be wrong) I believe he had been deported twice(?) before, somehow, being deported back does not feel like too much of a punishment, in that instance I wish the immigration conversation was really open, just not a smoke screen for politicians that it seems to be. Its a tough topic, one that will always be there especially considering there is not a ocean (not that even then it stops immigration issues) but they never seem to want to tackle the hard conversations and really open that dialogue with Mexico and come to a mutual arrangement when it comes to prisioners

Sorry extra long winded.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Bullocks. There are many multiple offenders who get deported, then come back and do it again.

Yes, there are ALSO citizen swine who do the same.

leftocenter
leftocenter

Exactly my point!  But I'd rather take politics out of it.  Bigots make every issue an immigration issue.  I'm sure there are Dems that are bigots too.  I'm not sure when being "conservative" made it ok to be a bigot. 

The Tea Party has fractured the GOP, which politically helps the Dems.  I'd trade that help for less bigotry. 

leftocenter
leftocenter

There's the jump - ..."isn't a US Citizen."  There are many different types of legal residents -- temporary and permanent resident aliens -- who are not "illegal."  I didn't see any mention of an immigration hold in this article.  If it said that, I'd also assume he is in the country illegally -- those are synonymous. 

Clearly, as a non-US citizen, if he had prior arrests he should not have been in the country and if he hadn't been, she'd be alive.  There is no question about that. 

The odds are against her being hit by a drunk Dallas Cowboy. 

Fleeing the scene is also common due to being under the influence regardless of citizenship.  Do you dispute that many people assume Hispanic surname = illegal without any corroboration?  You seem to have imagined the phrase "immigration hold."

leftocenter
leftocenter

First of all, there's no need for name-calling, though I'm sure I won't single-handedly civilize the Internet.

Second, you're right, I didn't do any research, I was basing my comment entirely on the information provided in the article.  Many people assume any person arrested who has an Hispanic surname is illegal.  That's very revealing.  Us "morons" don't think that way.  Personally, the only issue I jump to in this case is the devastating grief on that mom's face -- heartbreaking.

Do you have a link to information that confirms the status and multiple arrests?  If true, I agree completely that he should have been deported long ago. 

The question of whether he should serve his sentence here before being deported is a hard one, considering the cost of incarcerating him for a very long time.  Worth it I think...  especially if it was my daughter.  Thoughts?  More insults? 

lzippitydoo
lzippitydoo

The justice I would impose - either Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson! Whatever it would take to serve justice and insure that the thug never came back and could kill again! A 20 year sentence and temporary deportation is too little!

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@whocareswhatithink @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul  

What will probably happen is that he will serve his sentence for the crime and then be deported back to his country of origin.


Being released with an immigration hold for misdemeanor crimes is fairly common.  In this case if he had bonded out prior to trial, he most likely would have then been detained by ICE.  This story, nor the January story, say whether he had bonded out on the intoxication manslaughter charge or if he had, was he then detained by ICE.

leftocenter
leftocenter

@bvckvs I think your views are further left than mine, though I love a good and respectfull debate (and a good liberal lol). Viewing the GOP as the "devil" (and I now it wasn't literal) hinders any chance to move to the middle.  Or where I am (see handle).  There are many good, non-bigoted, Republicans out there.  Even some who self-identify as "tea party". 

My point is I don't want to see democrats win elections because the GOP is fractured.  I want them to win fair and square, because they've articulated the issues and reason has won out.

Stop by and visit the middle sometime -- it's a lonely place. 

leftocenter
leftocenter

@bvckvs Well, bvckvs (you need a nickname lol) partisan is true.  But I'm talking about bigotry not immigration.  That said, I remember the days when "bi-partisan" was a good thing and in the works of Barbara Bush, compromise is not a dirty word.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@leftocenter 

" Again, I don't defend Cerda.  And had I read the linked article, we wouldn't be having this exchange."

Thank you.

"Terrible experience" is pretty much the understatement of the millenium.

I have no problem with legal immigrants.

Given the Hispanic population in Texas and the number of persons who are present in the country without authorization (illegal immigrants) in Texas, who are primarily from the Republic of Mexico and Central America, it is basically a coin toss as to whether or not any Hispanic which you interact with is here without authorization (illegally).

Have a nice day, now go away 

leftocenter
leftocenter

Interesting...so because I'm reasonable and acknowledge opposing opinions can have merit, I'm triple flailing, floundering, foundered?  Nice alliteration by the way.

LOL, you're welcome, I will keep trying to show that reasonable people can disagree and still respect each other's opinions. :)

leftocenter
leftocenter

I'm not defending this guy at all...not one bit.  How could it be better if she was hit was someone else?  Dead is dead.  Nothing will change their loss.

You had a such terrible experience being hit by an illegal.  I think anyone who went through that would share your opinions -- it would be hard not to.  In a wierdly ironic twist, I was hit last night - rear ended pretty good.  White guy, everybody had insurance, piece of cake other than the pain today and the inconvenience.  I appreciate you sharing that story -- it adds context.

Again, I don't defend Cerda.  And had I read the linked article, we wouldn't be having this exchange.  Non-US citizens who are criminals should be deported the first time they break our laws.  I'm defending legal immigrants and Hispanic Americans who are wrongly lumped into the same category simply due to their race. 

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@leftocenter  

Go read the linked story.  The immigration hold is stated in that story.

She and her family probably would have been better off if she had been hit by a drunk Dallas Cowboy. 


You are really stretching at defending this guy.


I have also been hit by a "person in the country without authorization".  I was stopped at a stoplight and was rearended.  My vehicle was knocked over 100 feet across the intersection.  There were no skidmarks from the vehicle that hit us.  The police estimated that their vehicle was going at least 45 mph when we were hit.  The four of us got sent to the hospital.  Recovered nothing from the driver or the car owner.  The six people in the car bailed and none would admit to driving.  As a result the police did not ticket anyone, but did arrest them for public intoxication.   Four failed to show up in court and none showed up for the detention hearing with INS (This was before the ICE reorganization).  The two that did show up paid a fine.

We recovered nothing.  Our car was almost totalled.  I ending up having to spend about 2 weeks in bed  because of the pain.


I swear to God that the next time that I am hit by a drunk illegal alien, I am going to shoot the moth****cker myself.

If you want to defend illegal aliens, start boarding them in your house.




wcvemail
wcvemail

@leftocenter You're flailing and floundering, and now you've foundered. Thanks for trying.

leftocenter
leftocenter

@FEDUP I'm sad for you for several reasons:

You'll never see the view from the hgh road.

You're a miserable and angry male (not a man).

As far as my mom goes, you only have your own mama to compare to, and she did EVERYTHING!  Whew!  NO inhibitions at all...ask anyone.

Finally, looking down and seeing no testicles must be a really rough way to start you day.

FEDUP
FEDUP

@leftocenter I hide nothing SHIT FOR BRAINS. I HATE EVERYBODY who have surrendered their MANHOOD for Political fuckin Correctness, and liberal brainwashing. And I have for 68 years, by the way my regards to your mother, even though she was a rotten lay.

leftocenter
leftocenter

Wow.  Stand up like a real man and give your name.  Do you hide real bigotry behind your "FEDUP" label or are you just trolling? 

Daniel
Daniel

@leftocenter Insults are all conservatives have. It makes them feel better somehow. But go easy on poor beleaguered  Johnny Blaze, all the problems in his life can be traced to illegal immigrants. And gay people. And black presidents. 

Daniel
Daniel

@lzippitydoo  How about Sly Stallone as Rambo and he shoots him and it's all bad-ass and stuff! I can't tell the difference between real life and movies! My psyche is fed on a steady diet of revenge fantasies! 

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