A 23-year-old Austin man who was charged with murder after a fatal wreck Monday had been convicted in three drunken driving cases and had gotten his license back just over a month ago, according to his arrest affidavit and court documents.
Jaime Bonilla Alvarado, who also goes by Donnie Noel Bonilla, was charged with first-degree murder in the fatal wreck.
His three previous drunken driving offenses occurred in 2006 and 2007 in Travis County and were resolved at the same time.
Alvarado received a sentence of 80 days in jail for the three offenses and lost his driver’s license for one year. According to court documents, he was to receive his license back July 22.
A little more than a month later, Alvarado caused a collision that killed 64- year-old Robert Joel Benn, according to the arrest affidavit.
Leading up to the crash Monday night, a police officer saw Alvarado driving dangerously in his Lincoln Navigator in East Austin. While following him, the officer reported that Alvarado ran several red lights and threw two glass bottles with liquid in them out of the window.
At the intersection of Airport Boulevard and Bolm Road, police said, Alvarado ran a red light and struck Benn’s vehicle. Benn had just arrived in Austin from Tennessee on business.
Alvarado faces up to life in prison if convicted.
Karen Housewright, the state director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said that after three drunken driving offenses, Alvarado had proven himself to be irresponsible and that more should have been done to prevent him from driving.
“Here’s a guy who shouldn’t have been on the road,” Housewright said.
Under state law, a person’s third drunken driving conviction makes the offense a third-degree felony, punishable by two to 10 years in prison.
After the second offense, state law calls for a breath-analyzing device to be installed in a person’s vehicle to inhibit the engine from starting if the person has been drinking. It was unclear whether Alvarado’s vehicle had such a device, which is usually required for a year once the driver’s license is reinstated.
“We’ll never know what we could have done to prevent this fatality from occurring,” Housewright said. “It’s just so appalling that somebody with three prior (convictions) was driving at all.”
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said Alvarado is an example of why the department has taken an aggressive stance against drunken driving.
“The death of Mr. Benn — a man who on the day his grandchild was born his life was violently taken away,” Acevedo said. “That family needs justice, and we need to ensure that this defendant, who has continued to put people in this city and county at risk, is locked away.”
Alvarado was being held in the Travis County Jail on Thursday evening, with bail set at $760,000. He also has been charged with evading arrest or detention with a vehicle, a state jail felony, and also was being held on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer.