Thursday, November 10, 2011

Family And Friends Speak Out On LDS Missionary Trevor Strong; Hit-And-Run Driver Jose Luis Garza-Flores Faces 10 Years In Jail And A $10,000 Fine

While information continues to filter in on the three missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were struck by a hit-and-run driver in Donna, Texas, my previous post has become sufficiently saturated with information and media links that a new post is warranted. We lead off with a video showing the friends and family speaking out about one of the deceased missionaries, Elder Trevor Strong. This video was uploaded by KGBT Channel 4 in Texas:

It may seem like Elder Strong is getting the lion's share of the media coverage, but that's primarily because his home is in the Salt Lake Valley, the capital of Mormondom, so to speak. In addition, Elder Strong became more newsworthy when it was revealed that he had voluntarily extended his mission by three weeks because he wanted to continue training new missionaries and work with a couple of investigator families, thus his friends and family must contend with the agonizing possibility that had Elder Strong concluded his mission on the original date, he would likely still be in the flesh. In contrast, Elder Derek Walker's home is in the more rural Fairfield, Idaho, so he has not broken the media's radar screen so much; Walker had served in the mission field for 14 months. has now published a good profile on Elder Walker. Rest assured the Church and the Lord value all three of these elders equally.

Here are short updated summaries on the surviving missionary and on the hit-and-run driver.

Elder Zachary Harris: The survivor, treated in hospital and released. Elder Harris is walking with a noticeable limp, and he has some bruising, swelling, and some lacerations. He has refused the option to go home; he's been on his mission for five months, and is determined to complete the remaining 19 months. Texas McAllen Mission President Stephen Trayner supports Harris' decision.

Jose Luis Garza-Flores: The driver of the 2000 Pontiac Grand Am which struck the missionaries. At 7:30 P.M. on November 8th, he crossed the center line of the road to pass another vehicle, and slammed into the missionaries whose bikes were equipped with headlights and who were all wearing helmets. Claims his own headlights were malfunctioning, flickering on and off. He and his two passengers fled the scene, but Garza voluntarily surrendered to authorities at the Progreso International Bridge a few hours later. This would have been a sufficiently long time interval that if Garza had any alcohol in his system, it would have dissipated below actionable levels, so we cannot rule out the possibility that he was legally intoxicated at the time of the accident.

Garza is a Mexican national who lives in nearby Weslaco; his residency status has not been disclosed. Because of the presumption of innocence, I intend to assume that Garza is a legal resident of the United States until proof to the contrary is produced. Garza has been charged with two counts of failing to stop at an accident causing death or injury, a third degree felony, and is being held at the Hidalgo County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bond; he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and a $10,000 fine. A search of the TDCJ offender database does not reveal a match at this time, but the TDCJ database does not reveal whether an inmate is on an "immigration hold", which is a giveaway that an inmate is an illegal immigrant.

In the KSL video below, Elder Harris praises his two departed companions, saying "We worked hard together. They're both very hard workers...To me, Elder Strong and Elder Walker were very strong examples of being representatives of Christ and they taught me. I only knew them for about a week, but in that short week, they become my brothers,"

Missionary who survived praises companions killed in crash |

Local LDS leaders say that the remains of the two deceased missionaries will be sent back to their respective hometowns on Friday, and is finalizing plans for a memorial service to honor them.

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