Sus­pect in fa­tal crash in Hen­rico may have f led the United States

Pros­e­cu­tor says of­fice is work­ing with ICE to find El Sal­vado­ran

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - LOCAL PERSPECTIVES - BY SEAN GOR­MAN sgor­man@times­dis­patch.com (804) 649-6885 Staff writer Mark Bowes con­trib­uted to this re­port.

A woman from El Sal­vador charged with in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter in con­nec­tion with a crash that killed a Hen­rico County woman might have fled the U.S. to avoid pros­e­cu­tion, ac­cord­ing to the pros­e­cu­tor han­dling the case.

Os­maira E. Men­dez-Ur­daneta was charged fol­low­ing the Aug. 16 wreck in which her ve­hi­cle went off the road and struck 59-year-old Bev­erly Page Bour­geois as she was do­ing yard work along North Parham Road near Tucker High School. The day af­ter the crash, au­thor­i­ties filed charges of reck­less driv­ing and driv­ing with­out a li­cense against Men­dez-Ur­daneta, 48, of Hen­rico. Bour­geois, who was taken to the hos­pi­tal fol­low­ing the crash, died two weeks later, on Aug. 30, ac­cord­ing to po­lice.

Men­dez-Ur­daneta was sched­uled to at­tend an Oct. 25 court hear­ing in Hen­rico Gen­eral District Court on the reck­less driv­ing charge. Rob Cerullo, a Powhatan County pros­e­cu­tor who is prose­cut­ing the case, said Thurs­day he had been plan­ning to with­draw the mis­de­meanor reck­less driv­ing count at that hear­ing be­cause he was weigh­ing bring­ing a more se­ri­ous charge.

But Men­dez-Ur­daneta didn’t show up to court, the pros­e­cu­tor said. Au­thor­i­ties later ob­tained a warrant to ar­rest Men­dez-Ur­daneta on an in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter charge but so far they’ve been un­able to serve it on the de­fen­dant, Cerullo said.

“She is a fugi­tive from jus­tice. We be­lieve she has fled the Rich­mond area if not the com­mon­wealth [of Vir­ginia] en­tirely, and we are at­tempt­ing to lo­cate her,” Cerullo said.

The pros­e­cu­tor said he is not aware that Men­dez-Ur­daneta has in­deed fled the U.S., but added that is a “dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity.”

“We are work­ing with [U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment] con­tacts, Home­land Se­cu­rity, to try and lo­cate her,” Cerullo said.

ICE records show that a woman who has the same date of birth as Men­dez-Ur­daneta and has used an­other name has been il­le­gally liv­ing in the U.S. and was or­dered by an im­mi­gra­tion judge back in 2001 to depart from the U.S.

Ar­den Bour­geois, Bev­erly Bour­geois’ step­son, said the lack of clo­sure in the case is frus­trat­ing for the fam­ily.

“As far as I’m con­cerned, any time she gets be­hind the wheel, peo­ple are in dan­ger,” Bour­geois said of Men­dez-Ur­daneta.

Bour­geois said his step­mother had been trim­ming bushes at a home she rents out along North Parham Road when the crash oc­curred. He added that his step­mother was hit by the ve­hi­cle as she was get­ting the house ready for new ten­ants to move in.

“She was amaz­ing. She was full of life,” Bour­geois said of his step­mother. “She was the per­son every­body went to when you needed to talk to some­body. My chil­dren ab­so­lutely adored her.”

Bour­geois said his step­mother had been mar­ried to his fa­ther for about 25 years. He added that Bev­erly Bour­geois helped take care of his fa­ther, who is 74 years old.

Cerullo, the Powhatan pros­e­cu­tor, said he was ap­pointed to han­dle the case be­cause a pros­e­cu­tor in the Hen­rico com­mon­wealth at­tor­ney’s of­fice is re­lated by mar­riage to Bev­erly Bour­geois.

Cerullo said Men­dez-Ur­daneta’s ve­hi­cle swerved off the road and trav­eled over a long stretch of grass be­fore her ve­hi­cle struck Bour­geois.

Fol­low­ing the in­ci­dent, Bour­geois’ hus­band said Men­dez-Ur­daneta told him that she had fallen asleep while driv­ing, Cerullo said. The pros­e­cu­tor added that the de­fen­dant never ob­tained a driver’s li­cense.

“All we can do, go­ing for­ward from here, is find her and pros­e­cute her,” Cerullo said.

FAM­ILY PHOTO

Bev­erly Page Bour­geois died in Au­gust af­ter be­ing hit by a ve­hi­cle while do­ing yard work.

Men­dezUr­daneta

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