Local man pleads guilty to vehicular homicide
EAGLE — Cuhatlique Cardenas wanted to open an authentic Mexican restaurant with her father, John.
She won’t. She’s dead.
Hugo Castillo Marquez, by all accounts a good kid with a bright future, crushed both Cardenas’ future and likely his own when he drove drunk and caused the crash that killed Cardenas.
Cardenas was dead at the scene. She was 23.
Castillo Marquez pleaded guilty Monday to vehicular homicide and aggravated DUI.
By the way, Cuhatlique is pronounced Quaht-LEAK-Ay.
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He understands his plea
Castillo Marquez told District Court Judge Russell Granger he understood what his guilty plea meant.
“You understand if you enter a guilty plea today, you give up the right to a trial by jury. It’s most likely a permanent and irrevocable decision. Do you understand that?” Granger asked.
“Yes, sir,” Castillo Marquez again responded.
Castillo Marquez could go to prison for seven years when he’s sentenced in June.
Cardenas, a 2009 Battle Mountain High School graduate, won an Alpine Bank scholarship to Colorado Mountain College, where she was studying sustainable cuisine.
Cardenas’ brothers, Leo and Quet, recounted the morning of Aug. 14, during a conversation outside the courtroom. Her father was there with his sons, but still can’t talk about it.
Quet was home, getting ready to take his girlfriend to work when he got the call.
“I was in shock. I didn’t believe it until I saw for myself,” Quet said.
Leo was at his home in Edwards. He had seen Cuhatlique and Hugo the night before.
“I was with them that night,” Leo said. “They left the house to go meet a friend.”
Castillo Marquez was driving “pretty crazy when they left the house,” Leo said.
Leo got worried, so he went to look for them. He didn’t find them.
At about 6 a.m. an ambulance siren pierced the dawn.
“I heard an ambulance passing by my house,” Leo said. “I got up quickly and followed it.”
“I was just praying to God that she was not the one,” Leo said.
When he saw Castillo Marquez’s black car in the river, his worst fears were confirmed.
Cardenas came by her love of cuisine from her father, John, who is an outstanding cook specializing in authentic Mexican food.
“It’s not real authentic Mexican food until you have those handmade tortillas,” Quet said.
What happened that night
Castillo Marquez was at the wheel of his black Honda Civic, driving 91 mph, when he failed to negotiate a sharp righthand curve near the top of Squaw Creek Road near the intersection of Fenno Drive, said Joe Kirwan, the prosecutor handling the case.
It crashed through a guardrail, flew 80 feet and rolled clockwise another 40 feet down the hillside. It stopped at the bottom when its wheels came to rest in Squaw Creek.
Castillo Marquez crawled out, climbed the embankment and made his way to a Cordillera security gate, where he called 911.
The Colorado State Patrol arrived on the scene minutes after receiving the call. Troopers gave Castillo Marquez a sobriety test at the scene. Three blood samples were drawn at the Vail Valley Medical Center.
The first came back that morning with a .064 blood alcohol content. Investigators extrapolated that back to 2 a.m., the time of the crash, and put his BAC at 1.6.
Finally able to apologize
A large contingent from both the Cardenas and Castillo Marquez families were in the courtroom for Monday’s hearing, as they’ve been for every court date.
Castillo Marquez asked to apologize to Cardenas’ family, something he said has not yet had the opportunity to do.
“Almost a year has passed since he has been able to express his sorrow,” said Marquez’ attorney, Ron Aal from Denver.
Castillo Marquez crowded into a small private conference room with several members of both families after Monday’s hearing.
Aal handed Judge Granger a thick three-ring binder packed with letters of support for his client.
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. They 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 Battle Mountain High School with honors and was the 2011 “Best Service to Community” honor by Battle Mountain.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.