Crash victim remembered as gentle, strong

Cuhatlique Cardenas died when the car in which she was a passenger crashed.
Special to the Daily |

In memorial

In lieu of flowers, the family is accepting donations to help defray the funeral expenses. To donate or leave a condolence, go to

EAGLE — Hugo Castillo Marquez was back in court Tuesday morning, surrounded by his large family and sporting about two dozen staples across his forehead and scalp, binding the wounds he suffered when the car he was driving crashed and killed Cuhatlique Cardenas.

An hour after Castillo Marquez left the courthouse, some of Cuhatlique’s mentors, teachers and Colorado Mountain College classmates gathered at CMC’s Edwards campus, around the fire pit on the building’s back porch.

Ironically, Castillo Marquez was in the building. He’s free on $25,000 bond. He attends classes there, but didn’t appear at Cuhatlique’s CMC memorial. By the way, before we go any further, Cuhatlique is pronounced Quaht-LEAK-ay.

Her friends remembered her to each other and to the heavens as kind and gentle, but strong — not weak. She was quiet, but not shy.

She worked multiple jobs — Academy Bank in Avon and running a Gypsum church’s children’s programs among them. She helped support her family, in between everything else in her life — like working toward her degree in sustainable cuisine.

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It’s a small program, at least so far, and the professors and students spend lots of quality time together. The students each have a garden plot and grow their own food as part of the class. Cuhatlique was the only one who could get corn to grow, and hers is spectacular, which is another life lesson she taught us.

You can’t force a garden, or a person into growing; you have to love them into growing.

Someone noticed a red, ripe summer strawberry in Cuhatlique’s garden, ready to be enjoyed. As they bent down to pick it, a gentle summer shower began to fall — almost like she was smiling her approval.

Heather O’Malley works with CMC’s first generation students and low income students. Cuhatlique Cardenas was both.

Cardenas had to take a little time off from college to go to Mexico and get some dental work done. O’Malley had seen kids leave school and not return, and said she worried that Cardenas might do the same.

The worry was misplaced. Cardenas was back in classes probably before she should have been.

“She was quiet, but once she engaged in a class she was all in. She was the gentlest soul I’ve ever known,” O’Malley said.

Cardenas was a 2009 Battle Mountain High School graduate and was one of 10 Eagle County high school graduates that year to earn an Alpine Bank Latino/Hispanic Scholarship.

The scholarship was for two years to any Colorado Mountain College campus.

Cardenas’ goal was to study culinary arts and eventually own and operate her own restaurant in Colorado.

Castillo Marquez, for his part, was a Youth Foundation community coach mentor, a program for high school graduates who have participated in Youth Foundation programs and want to give back. Their goal is to act as a role model and set a good example. Castillo Marquez has been involved with the Youth Foundation since the fourth grade.

He graduated from Battle Mountain High School with honors and earned the 2011 Best Service to Community honor by Battle Mountain.

What police say happened

It was about 2 a.m. on Aug. 21 when Castillo Marquez, 21, was driving up Squaw Creek Road near Cordillera, with Cardenas a passenger in the car. Castillo Marquez works at a Cordillera restaurant.

Castillo Marquez failed to negotiate a curve, crashed through a guardrail and flew 100 feet through the air before crashing into a ravine, police said. The black 2013 Honda car rolled several times before coming to rest on its wheels in a creek.

Cardenas, 23, was dead at the scene, said Kara Bettis, Eagle County coroner. She was wearing a seatbelt when the car crashed, the State Patrol said.

Six and a half hours later, around 8:30 a.m., Castillo Marquez registered a 0.060 blood alcohol level in a portable breath tester from Trooper Jaime Jursevics of the Colorado State Patrol, according to the arrest affidavit. Medics at Vail Valley Medical Center, where Castillo Marquez was taken, also took three blood samples for a blood alcohol test.

While Jursevics was interviewing Castillo Marquez at the hospital, he said he lost consciousness in the crash. He told her that when he woke up he climbed up the side of the hill where he met a man who took him to the Cordillera gate. Marquez called 911 at 6:49 a.m.

At 12:45 p.m. after he was cleared by the hospital, Castillo Marquez was handcuffed and put in the back of Jursevics’ patrol car and driven to the Eagle County jail, where he was booked on charged of vehicular homicide and DUI resulting in death.

Jursevics said he fell asleep during the drive from Vail to Eagle.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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