Victims' Families Outraged After Jury Sentences Joel Tavarez to 10 Years Probation

by Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - Shockwaves in a Midland courtroom Monday night. The man accused of killing two people and injuring their children in a drunk driving crash is sentenced to probation.

Gasps and tears rang through the courtroom as the sentence for Joel Tavarez was read.

Shock doesn't even begin to describe the courtroom as the judge read the punishment.

When the sentence was read, it sounded like Tavarez was getting 40 years in prison, but after getting through the legal jargon, what it all boils down to is Tavarez will be getting probation and the most he'll get is 10 years of probation.

Shocked and in disbelief, Perry Jeffery, Sr. can't believe what just happened.

"He took my son and my daughter-in-laws life and they're gonna give him 10 years. C'mon that's not right," Perry Sr., said.

After more than two hours in deliberation, a jury sentenced Joel Tavarez, Jr. to probation for driving drunk and killing 21-year-old Jena Vela and 23-year-old Perry Jeffrey, Jr. and for seriously hurting their two kids that were in the car with them.

"You can get away with killing people, there's no justice, there's no justice whatsoever," Perry Sr., said. "The boy should be going to the penitentiary for a very long time. You know, they talking about his life is greater than my son's life."

The prosecution asked for justice for the victims. The defense asked for mercy saying Tavarez was remorseful and deserved a second chance.

"I mean we're horribly disappointed," Asst. D.A., Tim Flathers, said. "We thought given the enormity of the offense in this case, we believe prison was the only appropriate punishment for him. Obviously the jury disagreed."

The family of the victims couldn't believe their ears.

"I'm shocked," Carla Shipley said. "I'm very disappointed in our judicial system. It feels like P.J. and Jena's lives were worth nothing."

Jeffrey's sister, Carla, said she's speechless.

"Now he gets to go back and be with his family and he's not being held accountable for being negligent," Shipley said. "We get to go home to their babies and tell them, to me, your parents were brutally murdered and nothing was done about it."

Jeffery's family says they've lost faith in the justice system.

"Oh you can break the law and get away with it," Shipley said. "Now he's free to walk the streets and possibly hurt another family."

Jeffery's father said the jury's decision is like salt on the wound.

"These people have been staring us down like we did something wrong you know?" Perry Sr., said. "Not one of them has come up to me or my family and tell me 'We're sorry' until they got in this courtroom. That doesn't mean that they're not sorry for the things that they have done and it's just not right. Watch your kids because if they kill your kids on the street, this is what happens."

The Vela family did not want to talk after the sentence was read. The Tavarez family also declined to give comment after walking out of the courtroom. The terms and time for probation will be set next week.