Man pleads guilty in Hidalgo County sheriff’s dispatcher death 

He could face 20-year prison sentence

EDINBURG — A man here faces up to 20 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to one count of intoxication manslaughter related to a crash that left a sheriff’s office dispatcher dead.

Orlando Zuniga Rodriguez is expected to appear Thursday before state District Judge Marla Cuellar for the formal sentencing hearing, during which the court could hand down a maximum 20-year prison sentence.

Zuniga Rodriguez entered a guilty plea Monday to one count of intoxication manslaughter related to the Dec. 9, 2018 crash that left Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher Sandra Coronado dead; in exchange, he will avoid a trial by jury.

The 20-year-old man admitted to drinking and using cocaine the night before he crashed his Chevrolet Avalanche into a Buick Encore SUV that Coronado was driving, pushing the vehicle against a concrete barrier near the 4900 block of Expressway 281.

However, authorities say Zuniga Rodriguez, who fled the scene of the crash, smelled of alcohol and marijuana and had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech when he was arrested in the 300 block of East Owassa Road as he made his way away from the scene.

Officials investigating the crash stated that Coronado, 29, of Edinburg, was on her way to work at the sheriff’s office when Zuniga Rodriguez slammed his Avalanche into Coronado’s vehicle.

The man’s attorney, Ricardo A. Flores, has been working on a plea deal with the state since August.

A 20-year-old passenger riding with Rodriguez suffered a collapsed lung in the crash.

The state’s prosecutors and Flores agreed to hold the sentencing hearing on Thursday because some members of Coronado’s family could not be present for Monday’s hearing. Zuniga Rodriguez’s family was present Monday.

lzazueta@themonitor.com