AUSTIN (KXAN) - After 20 years, 7 children, and 12 grandchildren, there was no shortage of love in Roberta and Reginald Porch's marriage.
Even when Reginald, a long-haul truck driver, went on the road for weeks at a time, the Illinois couple would exchange multiple phone calls a day.
"The last words we always said to each other were ‘I love you,'" said Roberta. "It was a rule of ours."
That is why it was odd when the 52-year-old Reginald did not return Roberta's texts or calls on January 15 th.
She did not find out why until a full day later.
"The crash," she said through sobs and tears. "It was horrible."
Reginald Porch was killed in a fiery accident while passing through Austin. A police report indicates he swerved to evade a driver who cut into his lane of traffic. His 18-wheeler hit a steel guardrail before colliding with a pillar beneath the Slaughter Creek overpass on I-35.
The impact threw Porch from the truck cabin and he was burned by fire in the process.
As horrific as his accident and death has been for his family, the details to come from the crash report only made matters worse.
"Why is she walking the streets? Why is she driving a vehicle," asked Roberta about 33-year-old Maria Mendez, the driver who police believe veered in front of Reginald.
According to the police report, officers believe Roberta was reaching for a cell phone she had dropped in her car when she cut into Reginald's lane.
She was also cited for driving without a license and without insurance, a Class A Misdemeanor, but police did not charge her with Porch's death and Roberta does not understand why.
"She was in the middle of a criminal act. She was driving on a suspended license," she said. "She should have been charged with manslaughter."
It was not the first time Mendez has been ticketed for driving without a license or insurance. A search of jail records show at least three other instances in Hays County alone.
But Austin Police and the Travis County District Attorney's Office did not feel the criteria to charge Mendez with Manslaughter was reached.
"Without a doubt, it is the toughest investigation to conduct," said Sgt. Jeff Slater with the APD Vehicular Homicide Unit about accidents involving a fatality.
"Some people want others locked away and prosecuted to the fullest, but if it does not meet the elements of a crime, that's not going to happen."
According to the Texas Penal code, one of the elements required of manslaughter is:
"The risk must be of such nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a GROSS deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise...."
Sgt. Slater says a single act of reaching for a cell phone, applying make-up, or running a red light does not meet the definition of gross negligence.
"Just the single act does not give us our wreckless conduct to prove Manslaughter," said Slater who went on to say that if multiple careless acts were combined, it might yield a different determination.
"That's our rule book," he said of the Texas Penal Code. "That's what we have to abide by."
Even a criminal history like Mendez's that features multiple charges for driving without a license is usually not a factor when determining negligent act according to Slater.
"Typically, no. It is not going to play a part."
Even if police do not find the probable cause to make an arrest, all cases are sent to the district attorney's office for review.
In this case, the DA's office also decided not to pursue prosecution.
Manslaughter, a 2 nd degree felony, is punishable between 2-20 years in prison. Class A Misdemeanors carry a fine up to $4,000 and a possible trip to county jail not to exceed one year.
Attorney Adam Loewy is representing the Porch family in a civil lawsuit against Mendez. He feels APD and the DA's office missed an opportunity to hold a negligent driver accountable.
"I believe that is this culture of permissiveness when it comes to automobile deaths that partially explain why this community continues to deal with deaths on the road," said Loewy who helped the Porch family file the suit on Monday.
The lawsuit is asking for a minimum of $1 million in damages.
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