Surveillance shows woman charged in over-serving driver in prom night crash

By Phil Archer - Reporter

HOUSTON - Houston police are trying to determine the true identity of a northside bartender who was arrested Wednesday for over-serving a drunken driver, in 2016, who went on to kill an 18-year-old girl in a high-speed crash. 

The 25-year-old woman is charged under the name Natalia Ortiz, but investigators aren't sure if that’s her real name. They said she has used multiple aliases and Social Security numbers, and has assumed the identities of at least two other women.

“We’ve identified three different names that she’s used while working at the restaurant. We’re not entirely sure what her real name is,” Assistant Harris County District Attorney Sean Teare said. 

The woman is charged with serving a drunk, a misdemeanor, and forging a government document, a third-degree felony. 

Ortiz was arrested Wednesday at El Muelle Seafood, located at 6705 Airline Drive. It’s the same restaurant where she’s accused of serving 11 beers to Edin Palacios, 28, in May 2016. 

Prosecutors said security video from the restaurant’s security cameras shows Ortiz continued to serve Palacios after he showed clear signs of being intoxicated. 

As Palacios drove away from the restaurant after closing time, a Houston police officer attempted to pull him over. Palacios sped away with the officer in pursuit. A short time later, he slammed into another car, killing Jocelynn Valero, 18, who was headed home from her prom with her date. 

Palacios was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.18, more than twice the legal limit. In April, he was sentenced to 32 years in prison. 

The case against Ortiz had essentially been overlooked until prosecutors recently began reviewing old DWI cases and discovered the video. The case review is part of a new emphasis by the district attorney's office on enforcing state laws that prohibit service workers from over-serving obviously inebriated patrons at bars and restaurants. 

“It was a matter of identifying the server, a matter of going through all of the hoops to actually identify her to the point we could get a warrant to contacting the individuals whom she had assumed their identity so to speak," said Teare, who heads the district attorney's vehicular crimes division

Late Thursday, Ortiz had still not been booked into the county jail as police continued to try to determine her true identity. 

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