Woman pleads guilty in Texas crash that killed mom and baby

HOUSTON -- A woman who prosecutors say had a blood alcohol of twice the legal limit when she hit and killed a mom and her 3-month-old son has pleaded guilty in the case.

Veronica Rivas was 20 years old when she slammed into a vehicle with Shayla Joseph, 36, and her infant son Braylan inside on Feb. 28, 2018. The force of the crash spread wreckage all over the I-45 feeder road near El Dorado in the Clear Lake area.

On Wednesday, Rivas, now 22, pleaded guilty to two counts of intoxication manslaughter, the Harris County District Attorney's Office said.

Prosecutors say she will be formally sentenced to 18 years in prison during a hearing on July 12. Victim impact statements will be read during the proceeding.

MORE: 4 charged for roles in underage drunk driving crash that killed Texas mom and baby

The investigation focused on how Rivas and a 17-year-old in her vehicle at the time of the crash were served alcohol that night.

Prosecutors pointed at two bars near the crash scene. They said the pair had margaritas at Crescent City Connection Sports and Oyster Bar earlier that night. They also said Rivas was seen at Dempsey's, a bar in Webster, though, it was not known whether she was drinking there.

Four people were accused of serving alcohol to the underage patrons. The case was the first to be prosecuted under a Harris County District Attorney's task force that works at crash scenes and traces events backward to find the source of the alcohol in intoxication incidents.

MORE: Suspected drunk driver in deadly Texas crash reportedly had BAC level of .21

"Those who fuel carnage caused by drunk driving are legally responsible and the community will determine the cost of their actions," Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said. "Serving or offering someone alcohol is a consequential responsibility."

In the midst of the case, Shayla's husband and Braylan's father, Bryan Joseph, has had to endure the loss of a wife and a son. When Bryan spoke with ABC13 shortly after the crash, he recalled what his son was able to do just before his death.

"He was just now smiling and stuff. It was getting to the point where I could get him to smile on cue," Bryan said.

Three months after the crash, Bryan filed a $40 million lawsuit against Rivas, Crescent City and Dempsey's.

The video above is from a previous story.
Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.