BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Jose Hernandez knew not to get behind the wheel. He had seven drunken driving convictions and knew of the dangers.
But that didn’t stop him from knocking back several 24-oz. cans of Bud Ice and racing another vehicle. He sped east on Stockdale Highway in his Chevy Tahoe and plowed into a car, killing Barbara Keyser Blair, 60, and critically injuring her husband.
In 2009, Hernandez was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison, plus eight years, after being found guilty of second-degree murder and other charges.
Last month, the Board of Parole Hearings found Hernandez no longer poses a public safety risk and granted his release, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office.
District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said she’s disappointed with the decision.
“I remember this case well and am aware that the murder of Ms. Blair was devastating for her family and for the community,” Zimmer said in a news release. “I am very disappointed that the Board of Parole Hearings chose to parole this killer who inflicted such pain and suffering for so many.”
She added, “I wish that members of the Parole Board stood for election and were directly accountable to voters.”
As part of his parole terms, Hernandez is barred from being in Kern County.
On Oct. 14, 2007, Hernandez ran a red light while traveling at least 72 mph and hit the Blairs’ vehicle at the intersection of Stockdale Highway and Fairway Drive. Investigators determined the SUV was traveling 89 mph five seconds before impact, prosecutors said.
His blood-alcohol content measured 0.19%, more than twice the legal limit, according to prosecutors. He was driving on a suspended license.
Hernandez wasn’t alone in the SUV. His 2-year-old, not properly secured, was with him. She suffered facial injuries and required “extensive” stitches, prosecutors said.
A friend of Hernandez told police they’d been at the Park at River Walk. She said she told him not to drive. He was so drunk he couldn’t walk, the friend said.
She told police Hernandez drank three 24-oz. Bud Ice cans at her home, then drank more with her husband at the park.
The man Hernandez was accused of racing, Ryan Edward Weissrock, initially faced manslaughter and hit-and-run charges. Police said he left the scene but later returned.
Weissrock, who had been at the U.S. Marine Reserve Training Center, told police he went home and changed. He said he thought he’d get in trouble for wearing his military uniform in public, according to police reports.
Weissrock pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor, and other charges were dismissed. He was sentenced to three years’ probation.