Victoria man accused of 2 manslaughter charges

A 20-year-old Victoria man was arrested Tuesday on a Comal County charging him with two counts of manslaughter.

A 20-year-old Victoria man was arrested Tuesday on a Comal County warrant accusing him of two counts of second-degree manslaughter.

The Texas Department of Public Safety arrested Andrew Michael Pena less than two months after he was involved in a five-vehicle wreck that left two dead in Comal County on SH 46 near Blanco Road.

San Antonio residents Jason Joseph Cantu, 42, and Magdalena Heather Hernandez, 21, were killed in the crash. The preliminary cause of death was traumatic injuries, according to Central Texas Autopsy preliminary reports.

Hernandez was five days away from her 22nd birthday when the crash occurred.

Pena was eastbound on S.H. 46 in a Ford F-250 near a curve when his vehicle traveled into an opposing lane and crashed into a westbound Chevrolet Camaro that attempted to avoid the collision, according to an arrest warrant affidavit written by investigator Jack Johnson II, a trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety. Pena’s vehicle then sideswiped a Buick Enclave and collided head-on with a Hyundai Accent that Cantu and Hernandez occupied before vaulting over the top of the Hyundai and into a ditch.

A fifth vehicle then struck the Hyundai, though an investigation revealed that the impact between the Ford and Hyundai killed them, Johnson said.

All vehicles involved were westbound except Pena’s.

The suspect admitted to intentionally crossing over the double yellow line in a no-passing zone during an interview with a trooper two days after the crash and said he was trying to avoid striking a slower vehicle ahead. A passenger of his vehicle, Veronica Bellinghiere, also said Pena maneuvered into the westbound lane in an effort to pass a slower vehicle in front of them in an interview with the investigating trooper.

The two interviews coupled with evidence from the scene, including electronic data from the power train and air bag controls in Pena’s vehicle, led Johnson to conclude that Pena was aware of the no-passing zone markings on the roadway and curvature of the road and still intentionally crossed over markings into westbound traffic lanes.

The crash and deaths occurred as a result of Pena’s “reckless conduct and actions,” Johnson said in the affidavit.

Pena remained in custody at the Victoria County Jail on Saturday in lieu of surety bonds totaling $200,000.

If convicted of both charges, he could face a maximum of two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 for each conviction.

Kali Venable is a public safety reporter for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6558 or at kvenable@vicad.com.

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Investigative & Environmental Reporter

"I am a Houston native and 5th generation Texan, with a degree in journalism and minor in creative writing from the University of Texas at Austin. I care deeply about public interests and the community I serve.”

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