Family remembers Ruidoso teacher killed in drunk driving crash; boyfriend charged

New Mexico News

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A Roswell man now faces homicide charges for a September crash that killed his girlfriend. The victim in that crash was 27-year-old Sarah Cardenas. Her family says the mom and pre-k teacher loved to help anyone in need and these two months without her have been the worst pain they’ve felt.

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“She was the one that kept us together, a big part of the family,” said Aldo Cardenas, Sarah’s brother, as he sat with their sister Irasema. “That was our big sister. A role model to us, both me and her. She always made sure we had what we needed.”

The 27-year-old was a pre-k teacher in Ruidoso. She was known to make everyone in her presence smile.

“Always laughing, she had a contagious laugh, always happy,” said Anselmo Cardenas Jr., Sarah’s dad. “She had good dreams, good plans, you know, to build a house. She was already going for her master’s.”

Now, a wreath and cross honor her memory at the crash site where she lost her life on Sept. 12 — broken glass from the windows, still embedded in the dirt. Police say Sarah’s boyfriend, Julio Garcia Jr., was speeding before his car hit a power pole and flipped. She was dead by the time police arrived.

“I had just spoken to her maybe 30 minutes before,” said Aldo. “My dad and I had received Facetime calls from her about three hours prior to the accident.”

Her brother said the couple had just left an event at the Sandia Speedway near the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque, just up the road from the crash site. Court records say witnesses reported they were drinking at the event since early that afternoon.

Garcia’s blood toxicology didn’t come back until Oct. 19 — with levels more than twice the legal limit — but more than a month has passed since then. The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office says the lead investigator was on leave until recently and this was the first opportunity they had to file the warrant, where Garcia was taken into custody in Roswell. Still, Sarah’s family says while they’re glad someone is being held responsible, they’re still grieving.

“We still don’t know exactly what happened,” said Anselmo. “Whatever happens, it’s not going to bring my daughter back but I hope there’s a change somewhere.”

Now, Sarah’s memory lives on in the students she taught at Sierra Vista Primary, and her young daughter, Miah. The Cardenas family also wants to make sure this sort of tragedy doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“A lot of people knew her. She was a great teacher,” said Aldo. “If it can just stop a lot of people from making a wrong decision and drinking and driving.”

Sarah’s mom, Rosa, hopes this tragedy can inspire more enforcement against drunk driving, like having DWI checkpoints following events where there’s alcohol. Garcia will be held at the Chaves County Detention Center until he’s transported to Bernalillo County.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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