SAN ANTONIO – The punishment phase of a convicted drunken driver's trial began Tuesday with emotional testimony by one of the first San Antonio police officers to arrive at the scene where a couple was killed and their two friends injured in 2015.
Both in their early 20s, Nicholas Ramirez and his girlfriend Lauren Molina had caught a ride home with two co-workers from Cheddar's restaurant.
The couple was buckled in the backseat when Sylvia Herrera's SUV rear-ended their sedan at a high rate of speed at the intersection of Highway 151 and Southwest Loop 410.
Veteran police Officer Richard Conrad testified that he saw Molina was deceased, but Ramirez was pinned inside still breathing.
"His head was bent backward, but he looked at me. We locked eyes," Conrad said.
Conrad told the jury that Ramirez's eyes followed him as he surveyed the sedan that had been left nearly unrecognizable.
"I told him to hold on, but there was ..." Conrad paused, overcome while recalling the moment.
Conrad realized there was nothing he could do.
"I couldn't open the door. I couldn't move the front seat. I looked back and the young man was still looking at me. He was following me back and forth, as I was trying to figure out how to get into the car," he said. "I couldn't get in. I couldn't move the door. Then he just looked blank and stopped breathing."
The families seated in the courtroom could be seen wiping away tears and draping their arms around each others' shoulders.
Conrad was handed a box of tissues so he could continue testifying.
He told the jury he's reminded of the crash every day because he drives by it on the way to and from work.
Conrad said there are always flowers at the site.
"A lot has changed in that intersection since then, except for those flowers that are always placed there," he said.
Conrad said even when there was construction and the flowers were removed, they were always replaced.
Also testifying Tuesday was Joel Fox, a San Antonio Fire Department paramedic who attended to Herrera.
"While we were walking over there, she was saying, 'Hey, what about me? I'm hurt too. Come help me. Hello, I'm hurt,'" he said.
The punishment phase resumes Wednesday.
Herrera pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault.