By FRANCISCO E. JIMENEZ
Port Isabel-South Padre PRESS
A special hearing was held on Thursday, April 18, at approximately 11 a.m. in which suspended South Padre Island Economic Development Corporation Director Darla Lapeyre was released from jail, serving less than a month of her six months sentence after pleading guilty to negligent homicide.
The hearing was held in Judge Elia Cornejo Lopez’ 404 State District Court in Brownsville.
The hearing was reportedly held following a motion filed by Lapeyre’s attorney, Reynaldo G. Garza III, to have her released. At the hearing, it was reported that an outpouring of supporters from the Port Isabel and South Padre Island communities attended, many wearing white ribbons which read, “Free Darla Lapeyre.”
“We filed a motion to have her released from jail because the six months was excessive,” Garza said on Friday. “The hearing was set for yesterday. A very large crowd of Padre Island and Port Isabel residents filled the court room to ask the judge to release her.”
According to Garza, Judge Cornejo Lopez allowed those present to speak before making her decision to release Lapeyre.
“The judge allowed all of them to speak, and at the end of the hearing she decided to Darla Lapeyre didn’t need to be in jail and released her,” Garza said. “The District Attorney opposed it, but because the court room was overflowing with supporters of Darla Lapeyre from South Padre and Port Isabel – I’m talking community leaders and business owners and elected officials; the courtroom was full – the judge listened to them all, and at the end she said, ‘OK, I don’t think she needs to be in jail. I’ll release her.’”
As previously reported, Lapeyre was serving a six-month jail sentence following the Feb. 6, 2011 incident in which the vehicle she was driving struck and killed Michigan native, 63-year-old Jimmie Leonard Anklam, who was riding on Padre Blvd. on his motorcycle with his wife Christine, who suffered non-life threatening injuries in the incident.
Lapeyre, who was discovered to have a blood alcohol level of .07 at the time of the incident, was ordered to pay restitution to the family, court costs, a $5,000 fine over 60 months, a $100 donation to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) not to mention devoting her time to a MADD victim’s panel upon her release as well as community service.
“I think the process is what it is,” Garza said. “My feelings are not important. The judge did her job, I did my job, the prosecutor did their job and there’s a result at the end of it. I don’t really get excited, I’m just a lawyer. My comments can really only be about what happened in the courtroom. I won’t criticize the judge. She has a job. I don’t blame the judge for releasing her because there was overwhelming community support to release Darla. The citizens wanted her out of jail.”
Lapeyre had served 29 days of her six-month jail sentence. A restitution hearing is scheduled for May 2 at 10 a.m.
Attempts to reach South Padre Island EDC officials for comment were unsuccessful as of 3 p.m. Friday, April 19.