AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin man pled guilty to a 2019 road rage incident that left a man dead on Pleasant Valley Road, according to Travis County court records.
James Derks, 39, pled guilty to murder Jan. 5. He was sentenced to serve 25 years in state prison.
In May 2019, Austin Police found Eric Walz unresponsive next to his vehicle, and he was declared brain dead the next day.
On the day of the incident, a witness told police that another driver harassed Walz, and they were speeding near William Cannon Drive and Interstate 35. The witness said they thought Walz was distancing himself from the other car.
Police said surveillance video showed Walz stopping his car and approaching Derks’ car on Pleasant Valley Road. Then, Derks’ car drove into Walz, sending him onto the car hood, through the air and onto the ground.
In a police interview, Derks said he and Walz drove down Pleasant Valley Road. At a light, he said Walz sped past him, got out of the car and jumped onto Derks’ hood. Derks said he drove forward at 10-to-15 miles per hour before Walz fell off the hood. He told police he drove away because he feared for his life.
Derks testimony didn’t match up with the witness account or the surveillance footage, which police said showed Walz bracing himself as the car drove toward him.
In 2019, police said Derks was tied to over 40 calls to 911 reporting someone driving recklessly or aggressively in vehicles registered in his name over the last 10 years. One 911 call included a woman who said Derks pulled a knife and pointed at her in traffic when she would not let him over.
Derks faced other charges of accident involving death and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, but those charges were dismissed.