NEW BOSTON, Texas: A man who intentionally crashed his truck into a minivan carrying three adults and four children was found guilty of capital murder Friday by a Bowie County jury and sentenced to life without parole.
Zachary Blaise Salazar, 22, was upset because his girlfriend had just broken up with him. As he was leaving her house on Knapp Street in DeKalb, Texas, Salazar said, “Fuck it. I’ll go wreck,” to her and her mother.
Moments later, the former girlfriend and her mother drove to the sound of sirens around the corner from their house on Highway 82. Salazar had crashed into a minivan occupied by seven people, including 3-year-old James Crowley and 7-year-old Riley Burgess. The minivan was a twisted wreck and the red Ford Ranger truck Salazar was driving caught on fire after the crash.
Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards told the jury that Salazar becomes aggressive and angry when things don’t go his way. She pointed to Salazar’s threat immediately before the crash and to a Facebook post from earlier in the day where he threatened to “kill himself or someone else.”
In an Instagram message from Salazar sent in October 2020, Salazar stated that he has “almost intentionally wrecked multiple times.” The post said he travels at speeds over 80 and thinks about crossing into the oncoming traffic.
Salazar’s defense attorney, Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana, argued that Salazar might have suffered a medical issue like a seizure or had mechanical problems that led to the fatal crash.
First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp argued that Salazar is no different from someone who shoots children in a shopping mall, shoots themself and survives.
“If you have the intent to kill yourself and run into a minivan, kill kids and survive, you’re guilty of capital murder,” Crisp argued.
The jury deliberated less than an hour before finding Salazar guilty of two counts of capital murder in the deaths of the young boys. The state did not seek the death penalty, 202nd District Judge John Tidwell sentenced Salazar to life without parole possible.
Crisp said the jury sent a message about harming children.
“A clearer message could hardly be sent–in Bowie County we will not tolerate violence against children. The Bowie County District Attorney’s Office thanks the witnesses who assisted law enforcement in the Salazar investigation and the professional men and women of the Bowie County Sheriff’s Office and Texas Department of Public Safety who work to keep our community safe,” Crisp said.