MONTGOMERY COUNTY - A woman charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter, and one count of vehicular aggravated assault, in a wrong-way crash near Conroe changed her plea Thursday to guilty.
As the trial opened prosecutors released surveillance video showing Nicole Baukus’ truck headed the wrong way down the North Freeway near Highway 242 on June 29, 2012.
The 23-year-old woman was traveling northbound in the southbound lanes of the freeway and slammed head-on into a car carrying three people. The car’s driver, 19-year-old Nicole Adams, was killed and a passenger in the back seat, 18-year-old Travis Sanders, also died. A third person in the car, 21-year-old David Porras, was critically injured.
On Wednesday, prosecutors released surveillance video from On the Rox Sports Bar and Grill showing Baukus on the night of the fatal crash drinking 17 shots and four beers, within 5 hours, and then stumbling to her truck.
Her blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit. Prosecutors said she also had drugs in her system.
Baukus’ plea change came an hour and half into the fourth day of testimony.
”I think in the face of overwhelming scientific and circumstantial evidence that she intentionally drank and she intentionally drove while she was drunk and killed two people. She technically really did not have much of a choice,” said Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Warren Diepraam.
Baukus broke down in tears as she was handcuffed and taken into custody inside the courtroom.
The surprise plea change stunned victims’ family members.
“I was crossing my fingers when the lawyers went back in chambers. Me and the other family members of the victims said a prayer. And she changed her plea! Flabbergasted I guess understates it,” said Fred Saunders, the father of Travis.
For over a year the families of Travis Saunders and Nicole Adams watched the drunk driver that killed their loved ones walk free. Now Baukus is behind bars and they hope she stays there a very long time.
“Please don’t let my son die in vain. Don’t let these other kids die in vain,” said Fred Saunders.
Baukus faces a total of up to 60 years in prison and prosecutors plan to seek the maximum sentence.
“Because of all the evidence that we have introduced, the callous nature of the defendant in this case, the impact on the community and the impact on young people everywhere that are watching this case,” Diepraam said.
As Fred Saunders continues to grieve his son’s death he said what he wants most is for people think twice before drinking and driving.
“He is home with Jesus and that is awesome. But I miss him. A piece of my soul is gone,” he said through tears.