As many of you know, I’ve bounced back and forth in my still young journalism career between sports and crime reporting. I love both and sometimes, the two mix (and that’s not even an indictment on the current nature of modern athletes thinking they are above the law).
One of my favorite stories (not necessarily an individual article, but my favorite series of stories) in sports was covering the Santa Fe Indian School girls basketball team last year on their road to the Class 3A state basketball championship.
In the opening round of last year’s state hoops tournament, SFIS beat up on visiting Newcombe pretty good here in Santa Fe. After the game, a Newcombe player, Del Lynn Peshlakai, 17, and her older sister/former Newcombe player Deshauna Peshlakai, 19, were killed in a car crash on Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe as they were driving away from the game.The car they were passengers in was run into from behind by James Ruiz, a man suspected of being drunk at the time and a man with past DWI issues (I will get back to that in a moment).
The Lady Braves dedicated their state tournament run to the Peshlakai family, who even led the team in pregame prayers at The Pit in Albuquerque before state tournament games the week after the girls were killed. The Lady Braves were told by the Peshlakai family they were all sisters of Del Lynn and Deshauna.
Friday night, the Lady Braves were invited back to Albuquerque to tip off the 2010-11 season where the 2009-10 season ended with a hoist of a blue championship trophy. And as SFIS took the court in The Pit Friday night against Gallup, there with them on the bench as honorary coaches were the parents of Del Lynn and Deshauna Peshlakai.
Good for SFIS and head coach Cindy Roybal for the gesture.
As for Ruiz, his case is scheduled for a Dec. 10 docket call before State District Judge Michael Vigil and Jan. 4 jury selection for the charges of two counts of vehicular homicide, three counts of great bodily harm by vehicle and a count of driving on a revoked license.
Instead of reinventing the wheel here, I’ll copy and paste here what former New Mexican writer Jason Auslander wrote in July about the Ruiz case (his story was focused on the problems at Santa Fe County Magistrate Court and Ruiz was a small part of that story):
Two drunken driving cases against James Ruiz also illustrate the court’s paperwork problems.
Ruiz was stopped May 6, 2008, for his fifth DWI arrest. When he was not arraigned within a few days, a member of Ruiz’s family called Magistrate George Anaya Jr. and alerted him to the situation.
The court said the Santa Fe police officer didn’t file the case until May 14. The officer told the judge he’d previously filed the case, though the court had no record of it. Ruiz was arraigned in the case May 15, but not released from jail until May 30, meaning he spent 25 days in jail, according to online jail records.
On Aug. 26, online court records in that case note that Ruiz was in alcohol treatment in California. He waived all time limits in the case, and on Sept. 24 the court noted that Ruiz was accepted into the treatment facility.
From there, according to online court records, nothing happened in the case until Aug. 25, 2009, when the court put the case back on the docket for a pre-trial conference. His case was then postponed for various reasons until March 5, when Ruiz and two friends went for drinks at the Blue Corn Cafe on Zia Road.
Ruiz drank three shots of whiskey and three beers before he and his friends skipped out on their $150 bar bill, jumped into a 2005 Ford F-250 pickup and, with Ruiz behind the wheel, went barreling down Cerrillos Road toward Interstate 25. With his breath-alcohol content nearly three times the legal driving limit — 0.22 — Ruiz slammed into the back of a 2007 Chevrolet Impala, killing Deshauna Peshlakai, 17, and Del Lynn Peshlakai, 19, and seriously injuring their parents.
Ruiz is still being held at the Santa Fe County jail in lieu of a $2 million cash bond.
Here are a few links to past related stories: