Mom fights for charges against driver in DUI death of her daughter
It has been almost a year since Claudia Rodriguez says she got the phone call no parent ever wants to receive.
“A police officer said my daughter had been in a car accident and didn’t survive. My world came to an end,” said Rodriguez.
Police reports state 18-year-old Jacqueline Pacheco was one of four passengers in a pickup truck driven by 19-year-old Gabino Matancillas when he slammed into the back of a semi-truck in Avondale on Dec. 29, 2018.
Records obtained by ABC15 show that Matancillas was driving on a suspended license for a DUI conviction he received just a few weeks prior to the deadly crash.
Matancillas was reportedly driving approximately 53 miles-per-hour when the deadly crash took place at about 4 a.m. Deputies with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office at the scene reported the teens were not wearing seatbelts.
Photos from the incident show multiple beer cans at the crash scene by Matancillas’ vehicle. The crash report indicates that Matancillas admitted to drinking and smoking marijuana that night, additionally telling deputies that the passengers were also smoking marijuana inside the vehicle as he drove.
MCSO deputies had recommended charges of manslaughter, aggravated DUI, and aggravated assault in this case, but ABC15 is now learning Matancillas will not be facing any of those charges.
“What other proof do they need? They found alcohol and marijuana in the vehicle, he even admitted having consumed drugs that night. He took my daughter’s life, why is that not enough?” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez and her family said they feel they were let down by the legal system and demand answers from the Maricopa County prosecutor’s office.
Rodriguez says she wants to know why prosecutors would decline to file manslaughter charges against Matancillas.
“He should be in jail right now,” said Rodriguez.
According to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, the determinant factors in this case were legal technicalities and Matancillas’ blood alcohol level.
“His blood alcohol level, according to the blood test, was 0.04,” said Jennifer Liewer, a spokesperson for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
According to Liewer, Matancillas’ blood alcohol level was not high enough to charge him with a felony. She said a misdemeanor DUI is all he can legally be charged with.
So, what about the manslaughter charge?
“Our statutes are laid out if you want to charge someone with manslaughter there has to be an impairment above 0.05,” responded Liewer.
Attorney Charles Slack-Mendez, who now represents Jacqueline’s family, disagrees.
“This is an individual that shouldn’t have any alcohol in his system much less any other drugs. He shouldn’t have been driving because he had just been convicted a month prior in reference to a different DUI.”
For Slack-Mendez, manslaughter would have been the proper charge. In order to convict a person like Matancillas for manslaughter in Arizona, the state can prove that he recklessly caused Jacqueline’s death, according to Slack-Mendez.
“Consuming alcohol prior to driving the vehicle, that was reckless,” said Slack-Mendez.
Prosecutors say the case still does not meet the threshold to charge Matancillas with manslaughter.
“This is a very tragic situation, [but] we can’t take things to trial if we don’t believe there’s a likelihood of conviction,” said Liewer.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has submitted an Underage DUI charge for Matancillas to the Maricopa County Justice Court and, if found guilty, he could face up to six months in jail.
“I will continue fighting, he has to be hold accountable. My daughter mattered. She was my entire world,” said Rodriguez.
Even though Matancillas admitted to smoking marijuana that day, prosecutors say his toxicology reports came back with no traces of THC in his system.
A vigil in Jacqueline’s honor will be held on December 29, 2019, at South Avondale Blvd and Lower Buckeye Road in Tolleson.