Basalt crash suspects appear in court; bonds set
ASPEN – A midvalley woman appeared in court Friday in the wake of Thursday’s five-car accident that allegedly was the product of her jealousy-fueled, high-speed pursuit of her husband on Highway 82.
Ivania Jesenia Alvarez-Lopez, 32, faces a felony charge of menacing and two misdemeanor counts. A conviction for the felony offense carries a prison sentence of one to three years. Judge Gail Nichols advised her of the charges via speakerphone.
Her estranged husband, Carlos Israel Diaz, 36, was transferred to Garfield County Court, where he also was advised but of lesser, misdemeanor charges: false imprisonment, speeding and reckless endangerment.
A mandatory restraining order prohibits Alvarez-Lopez from having contact with Diaz, with whom she has resided in the Blue Lake subdivision in El Jebel. The two also have an 8-month-old baby and a 12-year-old son who live there, a fact not lost on Nichols.
“I cannot stress enough that you cannot have contact with Mr. Diaz,” the judge said.
Yet an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement hold has been placed on Diaz, meaning that even were he to post the $25,000 bond, he could not be released from custody. Information on why his bond was so high was unavailable Friday, but court records show that Diaz has at least three previous traffic offenses in Colorado, including an April 4 ticket in Garfield County for driving without a license.
Less clear are Alvarez-Lopez’s immigration issues. At her advisement hearing, prosecutor Richard Nedlin noted that she has “temporary protective status” and a valid-employment authorization. The prosecutor also said immigration issues cloud her status in the U.S., but he could not immediately determine whether she faces deportation.
Nedlin asked Nichols to set the bond at $5,000 because “this was a very dangerous situation.” The judge opted for the scheduled amount of $2,500.
Thursday’s crash closed the eastbound lanes of Highway 82 at Willits Lane for 3 1/2 hours, according to the Basalt Police Department. Of the nine people checked for injuries, two were hospitalized. None of the injuries were life-threatening, police said.
According to an affidavit that Basalt Police Officer Penny Paxton filed Friday, Alvarez-Lopez initially told authorities that she was chasing her husband because she thought he had taken the baby. She later changed her story to tell officers that she had made a mistake and was confused.
The alleged root of the chase, authorities say, stems from Alvarez-Lopez’s suspicions that Diaz was having an affair with a 16-year-old girl whom he was giving a ride to Basalt High School the morning in question.
Alvarez-Lopez followed Diaz to the school in a separate vehicle, Paxton said. Diaz sped away on a school road when he realized Alvarez-Lopez was tailing him and then halted for a stop sign at South Side Drive with the girl still inside, Paxton said. Alvarez-Lopez allegedly rammed the van she was driving into the back of the van Diaz was driving, Paxton said.
Diaz fled the scene, zipped through streets in the Southside subdivision to Highway 82 and then headed west at a high rate of speed, according to authorities.
Both drivers then ran the red light at the intersection of Highway 82 and Willits Lane. Alvarez-Lopez’s minivan struck the front of a 2008 Audi before sideswiping a BMW and subsequently colliding head-on with a 1997 Dodge Stratus that was slowing as it came to the intersection. The Stratus was knocked backward into a stopped 2005 Toyota Tundra pickup.
Despite the accident, Diaz managed to take the 16-year-old to school. The girl, whose mother was Alvarez-Lopez’s passenger during the alleged pursuit, later met with Basalt police at the high school, the affidavit says. The girl, who rents a room in the same house inhabited by the embattled couple, told police that Alvarez-Lopez had suspected she and Diaz had been having an affair. The girl told police that she feared for her life when Alvarez-Lopez rammed them from behind, begging Diaz to “Let me out, Let me get out!” the affidavit says.
“(The girl) said that Diaz told her no, that Alvarez-Lopez was a crazy woman and would run her over,” the affidavit says.
The girl also told police that Diaz reached speeds of 110 mph on Highway 82 after the ramming incident. The girl said Diaz witnessed the intersection crash – his vehicle was not involved – and took her to school. The girl’s mother, meanwhile, was not injured and took a bus to Aspen to go to work, the affidavit says. The girl told police that her mother was riding with Alvarez-Lopez because Alvarez-Lopez wanted “so she could see what her daughter was doing with her husband,” the affidavit says.
Alvarez-Lopez is due back in court Monday. She also faces misdemeanor charges of domestic violence and reckless endangerment.
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Pitkin County administrators are proposing a more than $142 million budget for 2020, which is about $6 million less than this year because of fewer construction projects and capital improvements.