Rio Hondo father and son arrested in connection with fatal Thanksgiving Day crash

4 months 2 days 16 hours ago Thursday, December 21 2023 Dec 21, 2023 December 21, 2023 12:28 PM December 21, 2023 in News - Local

An 18-year-old man from Rio Hondo and his father were arrested Thursday in connection with a fatal crash that happened on Thanksgiving Day, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Reynaldo Mendoza was arrested on multiple charges, including accident causing death in connection with the crash, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by Channel 5 News.

RELATED STORY: Cameron County DA seeks person of interest in deadly Rio Hondo crash

Mendoza's father — Ernesto Mendoza — was also arrested on charges of tampering with physical evidence and making a false report to a peace officer, according to DPS spokeswoman Sgt. Maria Hernandez.

Ernesto confessed to authorities he attempted to alter the appearance of his son's vehicle following the crash, Sgt. Maria Hernandez added.

According to a DPS news release, a Ford Mustang driven by Reynaldo was racing a Chevrolet Silverado on Nov. 23, on FM 106 east of Nelson Road. The Silverado crashed into a Saturn Outlook, according to a news release.

The driver of the Saturn, identified as 42-year-old Jorge Villanueva of Rio Hondo, died at the scene, the news release stated.

The driver of the Chevrolet Silverado was airlifted to DHR Health in Edinburg.

According to the affidavit, a DPS trooper investigating the crash received surveillance video of the Mustang prior to and after the crash.

After the video was obtained, an officer with the Rio Hondo Police Department informed the trooper he recognized the Mustang, and the driver.

According to the affidavit, the police officer went to Reynaldo and Ernesto’s address where the suspect vehicle was located, “lifted on jacks with real wheels removed.”

Contact was made with Ernesto, who was “not cooperative” when asked about his son, who he said was in Houston for school.

“Ernesto then made a statement that Rey was not racing. Trooper Hernandez and I never mentioned anything to Ernesto about a race,” the affidavit stated. “Ernesto then claimed that it was him that was racing, and he was the one that removed the slick racing tires off [the Mustang.]”

On Nov. 30, the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office issued a news release asking for information on the Mustang involved in the crash. Investigators received multiple anonymous calls identifying Reynaldo as the owner of the vehicle, according to the affidavit.

A warrant as obtained for Reynaldo’s phone where a Snapchat recording of the fatal race was found, the affidavit said.

Both men remain in custody at the Cameron County jail. The jail website did not list a bond amount for either of them.

According to Sgt. Maria Hernandez, the driver of the Chevrolet Silverado faces charges once he is medically cleared. 

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