HOUSTON – A woman who was released from prison on parole earlier this month has been charged in a crash that killed a deputy Wednesday morning, Harris County sheriff's deputies said.
The fatal crash happened on E. Wallisville Road and Oleander in Highlands. The deputy, Jesse Valdez III, was traveling eastbound on East Wallisville Road when the driver of a dark-colored SUV traveling westbound crossed into the eastbound lane of traffic, hitting his vehicle head-on.
Valdez's vehicle spun counter-clockwise into a roadside drainage ditch, and Ivey's vehicle spun into the center of the intersection.
EMS personnel extricated the 32-year-old deputy from the vehicle and airlifted him to Memorial Hermann Trauma Center. He was pronounced dead at 1 a.m. Valdez became the 40th HCSO employee to die in the line of duty in the 177-year history of the agency.
Kelly Jo Ivey, who was driving the SUV, was taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital in an unknown condition. A male passenger in the vehicle was treated on scene.
Ivey, 29, was charged with possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, as a result of an investigation in the fatal crash.
Cliff McFarland is dating the suspect's mother.
"It's a complicated thing. You try to raise your kids the best you can and something like this happens. It's terrible. My heart goes out to the family of that officer," McFarland said.
This is not the first time Ivey has been accused in drug-related crime.
Authorities say she was released from Texas prison earlier this month after serving part of a two-year sentence on a previous methamphetamine case.
In March, Ivey pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance and agreed to the two-year sentence, according to court records. She was released on parole on Oct. 2.
Ivey also served time behind bars in two earlier theft cases, according to court records.
A Harris County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said in a news release that they are "still processing the reality of this loss."
"We will never forget his service. We will never forget his sacrifice," Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia said about Valdez at a news conference.
Valdez was an 11-year veteran assigned to the patrol bureau. He was a single father with a 10-year-old son.
At his parent's house, friends and family gathered to comfort one another. Family members were too badly shaken to talk about his death.
Valdez worked the night shift at the department's third district with friends that included Dep. Bob Goerlitz.
"He was a standup guy," said Goerlitz. "I feel horrible. I'm missing a friend."
Goerlitz, who is president of the Harris County Deputies Organization, had known Valdez since early in his career when he worked in the department's booking office. He says Valdez understood the dangers of the job, but never talked about them.
"You always go to work every day saying it's not going to happen to me today. You can't survive in this business any other way," he said.
As a patrolman in 2013, Valdez was commended for helping save the life of a man who had been overcome by heavy smoke in a house fire.
Ivey was expected to appear before a judge Wednesday afternoon, but did not appear because of medical reasons. She's due in court Thursday. More charges related to the crash could be filed.