Alleged DWI driver kills kids' caregiver

Cruel Irony: Alleged drunken driver slams head on into caregiver of her kids
March 10, 2009 6:27:59 AM PDT
It was a horrific scene -- an alleged alcohol-related, head-on car crash that killed one driver and led to charges of DWI and vehicular homicide for the other. It's a story filled with irony and tragedy. The two Albuquerque, N.M., women knew each other well because the victim had cared for the alleged DWI driver's children. The victim had even volunteered for the New Mexico chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Beverly Chacon, the driver charged in the accident, now sits in a jail cell, unable to make a $500,000 bail bond after previous DWI cases. Brenda Melton, the victim, had helped raise Chacon's children during times when Chacon was in and out of jail, according to Carmen Salas, Melton's domestic partner.

Now Melton's family is mired in grief and anger, wanting justice for the woman who they say had so much left to do in life. Her funeral is scheduled for Tuesday morning.

"Her life was cut too short," Salas told ABCNews.com. "She had so much left to give."

Salas, 48, and Melton, 37, partners for the last 15 years, had helped Chacon, initially a friend of Salas', raise her three now-grown children at various times over the years. The couple took care of one of Chacon's sons, now 21, for 12 years, Salas said.

"I couldn't believe it," Salas said of the moment she learned the Chacon, 40, was the person behind the wheel of the other car that night. "We gave life to this boy. We raised him for her. This is how she repaid us."

"I was angry, very angry," she said.

Messages left at a number listed for Chacon's home address were not returned. She has not yet been assigned a public defender.

Salas said she and Melton met through friends and had planned to spend the rest of their lives together. The two loved to travel and enjoyed fishing and golf trips. Melton, Salas said, loved animals and doted on the couple's two dogs, Kitty and Scrappy.

"She was fun," Salas said. "She was full of life."

Salas and Melton were on their way to the grocery store last week when they were hit head-on by Chacon's car, which police said was traveling the wrong way down the street. Chacon fled the scene, according to police, but was followed by a witness and later taken into custody.

A police report said Chacon told police that she remembered being in a crash but didn't know what had happened. She refused field sobriety tests, but police reported she reeked of alcohol and had bloodshot, watery eyes and slurred speech.

'Beverly Will Never Change'

Chacon admitted to drinking three-fifths a bottle of Southern Comfort before getting behind the wheel, according to a criminal complaint obtained by ABCNews.com. Salas was uninjured in the crash, but Melton, who was driving, died the next day. Her organs, Salas said, were donated to three different people.

Salas said she found out Chacon was the other driver when she called her son, Artie Chacon, to tell him that Melton had died.

"Artie's reaction was 'Oh my God, I think it was my mom,'" she said, adding that she later confirmed the driver's identity through the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, where Melton had volunteered.

Dolly Otero, a victim's advocate for MADD New Mexico, met Melton briefly in October when Melton volunteered for a local fundraising walk through her job with Wal-Mart.

Otero said she first heard about Melton's death and her connection to Chacon the day after the accident.

"As an advocate, I always think from a victim's point of view and just the devastation this person caused," Otero said. "For you to know the person -- how devastating is that?"

This wasn't Chacon's first DWI charge. The DWI charge against Chacon stemming from the car accident indicates this is her fourth or subsequent such charge. She was also charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident and vehicular homicide.

Otero, who has attended all three of Chacon's court hearings so far, said Chacon was unremorseful and made no statements to or about Melton's family.

"She was more concerned about herself," Otero said.

In court, Chacon pleaded with the judge to reduce her $500,000 bond to something more affordable, a request that was swiftly denied.

The move angered Melton's family.

"Beverly will never change," Salas said. "So I hope she stays there for the rest of her life."


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