By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
Port Isabel police today arrested a man in connection with the death of former Port Isabel – South Padre Press journalist Elizabeth “Liz” Sweeten.
Ronnie Huerta, 33, was arrested at his home in Mercedes Monday by members of Port Isabel police. Huerta was transported back to Port Isabel, under the strength of a warrant issued by the 138th District Court.
Huerta stands charged with intoxication manslaughter with a vehicle in connection with an auto pedestrian accident that resulted in Sweeten’s death this spring. The warrant lists Huerta’s bond as $75,000 cash or surety.
As reported in the PRESS in March, Huerta — riding a Suzuki GSX-R1000 motorcycle — had reportedly been seen riding across the Queen Isabella Causeway toward Port Isabel at a high rate of speed. Just moments after he got off the causeway, at approximately 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 4 — Huerta allegedly struck Sweeten, who was attempting to cross Queen Isabella Boulevard on foot.
According to Port Isabel Chief of Police Robert Lopez, Huerta struck Sweeten with such force that she died instantly. “He hit the woman head on and lost control of the motorcycle,” Lopez said in March.
Lopez estimated Huerta was traveling approximately 70 mph at the time the incident. He had also been seen riding on the shoulder. The speed limit on Queen Isabella Boulevard is 30 mph.
Traffic that evening was heavy with crowds flocking to the region for the first weekend of Spring Break. An officer monitoring the flow of traffic at the corner of Garcia Street and Queen Isabella Boulevard saw Huerta coming off the bridge and initiated a pursuit.
Just four blocks down the road, Sweeten, who lived near the PRESS offices and could regularly be seen walking to various locations around town, was returning to her home after visiting the Stripes convenience store located on the corner of Musina Street and Queen Isabella Boulevard.
The force of the impact was so strong that momentum caused the motorcycle to careen into a nearby palm tree, where the bike broke in half before ricocheting northwards on Musina Street. A police photograph of the scene shows the mangled motorcycle lying in the middle of the street.
Huerta suffered serious injuries in the crash. He was transported via ambulance to Valley Regional Hospital in Brownsville, but was later airlifted to a trauma center in Edinburg.
Chief Lopez said toxicology results revealed the presence of both alcohol and marijuana in Huerta’s system. Lopez said at the time that Huerta’s blood alcohol level (BAC) was over the legal limit.
Sweeten was declared dead at the scene by Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Bennie Ochoa, III.
In recent weeks, Huerta has been active on social media. In what appears to be a Facebook account belonging to him, Huerta recently posted that he had gotten married. His profile photo shows him on a motorcycle. Red text placed over the image reads, “What doesn’t kill you only makes you Stronger (sic).”
Huerta was transported from his home in the Mid-Valley to the Port Isabel Police Department Monday afternoon. Still suffering from injuries sustained in the crash, Huerta remains confined to a wheelchair.
Cameron County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the police station a short time later to transport Huerta to Carrizales-Rucker Detention Center in Brownsville.
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