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Victim's family: We will rally for stricter drunk driving laws

Created: 07/06/2014 9:16 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness New 4

About 100 people die in drunk-driving related crashes each year in New Mexico.  

With each life lost, there are 100 families left to pick up the pieces.

Leo Gurule's family is one of them. The 23-year-old's life was cut short when police say 27-year-old prison guard Justin Romero drove drunk and hit the car Gurule was driving in with his cousin, Carlos Archuleta, near Espanola.

Now, Gurule's family wants it to be harder for those accused of drunk driving to move on, especially when the victims' families never get to.

"He was a very loveable and funny guy," said Gurule's cousin April Duarte. "He left behind two little girls."

Life can be taken in the blink of an eye, and what remains is a search for answers.

"I don't think they're fully aware of what's going on because they're so young," she said.

Duarte's search began when her cousin, Leo Gurule, found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

On June 19, Duarte got a phone call from Gurule's mom.

She'll never forget that call.

"The first thing she told me was, 'Leo's dead,'" Duarte said. 

Police say Romero, a guard at the Rio Arriba County Jail, was drunk when he hit Gurule's car head-on.

The crash killed Gurule and his passenger, Carlos Archuleta.

"For someone in this position to have done this, it was just disbelief and shock," Duarte said. "He did the same thing that other people are going to jail for when he's supposed to be being that example." 

For Duarte, the disbelief doesn't end at who is accused of causing her cousin's death.  

That's because Romero was released from jail without bond into house arrest.

"Sitting at home comfortably while two other people are put in the ground?" she said. "It's just unbelievable."

Durate and her family plan to rally at the statehouse for Romero to be returned to jail.

But most of all, she plans to call on Gov. Susana Martinez to make her cousin an example of the lives shattered by carelessness and to advocate for stricter punishments for drunk drivers.

"They loved their daddy," Duarte said, looking at a photo of Gurule's two young daughters. "Their daddy would do anything for them."

Life may be taken quickly, but what remains, she says, should be a search for change.

The family plans to rally next Wednesday, July 9, at the roundhouse in Santa Fe.

The rally begins at 10 a.m.

Gurule's family is also struggling to support his two young daughters.

They're attempting to raise money to help the family through online donations here: http://www.gofundme.com/Leogurulememorialfund.


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