LAS VEGAS (KTNV) – Some harsh feelings are now mingling with grief following a high profile DUI crash that killed a Clark County school district employee and cast doubt on the future of a star basketball recruit.
The case has not been brought to justice, but the victim’s family say they are already being denied justice.
This story is the latest in our series of reports on what many consider to be an issue with bail bail hearings, and again shows that it’s a no-one wins issue.
“I think I’m still in shock because I still can’t get past December 30th. It’s like there wasn’t a New Year. There was nothing,” said Ann Marie Echevarria.
The last time she heard from her husband Eric, he went to get something to eat for her 14-year-old son, who shares his father’s name.
“And I called him and he doesn’t answer, so I called my son and I thought, Eric, where’s dad? And he said he wasn’t home yet. And I already knew he died. I knew it before I got to it. ” the scene. I knew it was him. “
The scene on the corner of Fort Apache Road and Furnace Gulf Avenue still shows the signs of the crash that killed Eric: broken pieces of plastic from a taillight, spray paint from the crash investigators marking the street, and wooden planks the one Cover the decimated ash block wall.
“We live right at the end of the street. And … it was the worst,” said Ann Marie.
Eric Echevarria, 52, had worked as the Clark County School District administrator for nearly two decades, sometimes helping with autistic students.
He was a veteran, organ donor, beloved father, grandfather, and husband.
“I think when is he coming home? I look out the window all the time, looking all the time … Because his place is right in front of the house. I just look out there and the car isn’t there and it’s coming never go back, “said Ann Marie.
Your son, an eighth grader, has the hardest time.
“He wakes me up in the middle of the night which is heartbreaking to make me wonder mom what happens to me when you die?”
The teenager charged with the murder of Echevarria is 19-year-old Zaon Collins. The former Bishop Gorman High School student was a valued UNLV basketball recruit at the time.
In Collins’ arrest report, police say he drove about 88 mph in a residential area at 35 mph.
“When he hit him so hard, he got his car so far in the air that the roof of his car hit the wall,” said the victim’s sister-in-law, Evelyn Sulrzycki.
The arrest report states that police found a “glass with a green leafy substance” in Collins’ car and that Collins appeared to be tall.
The prosecutor says Collins tested positive for 3.0 nanograms per milliliter of THC – or marijuana – in his blood. Anything above 2.0 is considered impaired under Nevada law.
“He got high behind the wheel. Very high. And he decided to walk down this street,” said Ann Marie. “He turned off the road and hit my husband.”
Collins was charged with two crimes: DUI and reckless driving, both of which resulted in death.
Nevertheless, there is one thing Ann Marie cannot overcome. “He was home in less than 24 hours.”
Collins was released from prison the day after his arrest and was allowed to go home with his parents while his case is being heard in court.
“So it’s not fair. It’s just not fair!”
Collins received what was known as a self-recognition, or surgical release, which was not bailed but had several restrictions.
“What do you notice about this case?” Darcy Spears asked Lilia Ceballos, a bailiff who routinely works with DUI defendants.
“The fact that someone died,” replied Ceballos. “I was expecting half a million dollars bail to be honest. And surveillance! And when we saw he got OR we were like … What ?! How ?!”
The bail has been the subject of many screams across the country and here in Nevada.
“There were incredible racial and economic differences in bail application,” said David Chesnoff, Zaon Collins attorney.
Some crimes allow an administrative release in the context of legal proceedings.
However, this is not the case with DUI offenses.
“They don’t expect anyone to die so that someone can just be released,” said Ceballos.
District Attorney Steve Wolfson said his office had asked the court to place $ 150,000 bail on Zaon Collins.
In a March 2020 interview, Wolfson went harshly about driving under the influence.
“It’s a choice,” said Wolfson. “And you should face the consequences.”
Since defendants of DUI offenses are not entitled to release through pretrial services, they must appear in court.
Judge Joe Bonaventure made the decision to release Collins without bail.
“We depend on him as a citizen, and if he does not take everything into account – especially the family who has lost their loved one – there is no justice for me at the moment,” said Sulrzycki.
Attorney Chesnoff says the conditions for his client’s release are almost as strict as behind bars.
He is electronically monitored at a high level, must wear a SCRAM drug test patch and is not allowed to drive.
“Basically, the only difference between jail and whereabouts – and it’s good – he’s home and can work with me,” Chesnoff said.
“If you have clout, get out. And if you don’t, stay in jail,” said Ceballos.
“He was at Bishop Gorman – a fancy, expensive private school. He drove a $ 30,000 car. And now he has a very famous, expensive lawyer. How can we reconcile that?” Spears asked Chesnoff.
“Firstly, his parents love him and want him to go to the best school. And he led the school to three state championships as far as I know, so there are a lot of people who are glad he went there. Second, the car and third, his very expensive lawyer is doing this pro bono at this point, “said Chesnoff, which means he doesn’t charge the family for his services. “I understand what the deceased’s family feels like, but I also feel for a 19-year-old boy who has an incredible future that is now in danger.”
“He has to pay!” exclaimed Ann Marie. “And so that he is outside and glorified as a basketball player …!”
Collins’ driving record only stirs up anger for the Echevarria family.
“It’s very, very annoying that he was allowed to go home and my husband wasn’t allowed to go home. This wasn’t his first time.”
Not his first time accelerating. Or his second. In fact, Collins has four previous traffic incidents in the past three years. Two to go at least 20 miles per hour over the speed limit, one to be careful not to drive and one to go the wrong way on a one-way street.
“It concerns me that a judge could be induced to release someone with a story like this, whose actions killed someone!” said Ceballos.
Chesnoff counters: “I know a lot of teenagers who had bad driving records. So I’m not reducing that. It’s a fact to be decided here. But I also think that apart from the accident, a lot of teenagers had problems like this. “
Court records show Collins paid more than $ 2,000 in fines for his previous violations. He also had to attend a coroner’s visit program in 2019.
“And the victim’s family look at that and they clearly say it doesn’t matter. He didn’t learn from it. He kept doing it until he killed someone,” Spears told Chesnoff.
“At some point everything that needs to be said is said,” Chesnoff replied. “And I know it’s difficult, but everyone should be patient and move on to legal process.”
The Echevarria family so far say the legal process has failed.
“I hope when he comes back on February 17th I’ll be in the courtroom, I hope they lock him up! It has to be him – he can’t be home when he’s on his couch watching basketball videos when we.” are over there and don’t know what to do with ourselves! I’ve lost everything! Everything! ”Ann Marie exclaimed.
Zaon Collins is considering the mandatory prison sentence if convicted.
He is due for a preliminary hearing in court on February 17th.