WACO, TX – Aformer Midway High School student who caused a deadly three-vehicle crash in 2016 when she drove the wrong way down Highway 6 was sent to prison Monday after squandering her chance at deferred probation.
Judge Ralph Strother of Waco’s 19th State District Court approved a state motion Monday to revoke the probation of Savannah Nihcole Cardoza, now 21, and sentenced her to 12 years in prison.
Strother accepted a plea agreement between prosecutors and Cardoza in January 2019 and placed her on deferred probation for 10 years. The judge also sentenced Cardoza to 180 days in the county jail as a term of her probation, noting at the time that she tested positive for marijuana and cocaine during a presentence investigation by probation officers.
Cardoza pleaded guilty last year to manslaughter, aggravated assault and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in the November 2016 crash near Lake Waco’s Twin Bridges that killed Donald Lawrence Ray, 54, of Weatherford, and injured others in another car.
Cardoza, then 17, was an unlicensed driver who had never taken a driving class, police said at the time. She took her sister’s car without permission and was driving in the wrong lane at the time of the crash, police said.
In deferred adjudication cases, there is no final judgment of guilt and there is no conviction on a defendant’s record if she successfully completes probation. However, prosecutors filed a motion to adjudicate her guilt based on 16 allegations that she violated the terms and conditions of her deferred probation.
Cardoza acknowledged she was guilty on 15 of those counts, including failing to complete 300 hours of community service, failing to complete alcohol/drug evaluations, testing positive for marijuana, breaking curfew and failing to complete cognitive education and mental health courses.
She denied one of the allegations, that she was involved in a March 30 aggravated assault unrelated to the 2016 case. That charge remains pending.
Strother on Monday sentenced Cardoza based on three counts related to the 2016 crash. She received 12 years for aggravated assault, 12 years for manslaughter and two years in state jail for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. She will be eligible for parole once she earns credit for serving at least half her sentence.
Cardoza was driving north in the southbound lanes at about 3 a.m. when she crashed the car into another vehicle occupied by a man and a woman.
Ray, who was driving an 18-wheeler carrying nonhazardous glycerine ether, tried unsuccessfully to avoid the wreck. He flipped his truck and rolled into a guardrail, police said. Ray died at the scene and had to be extricated from the truck.
Cardoza and the couple in the other car were treated for broken bones and other injuries at a local hospital.