Motorcyclist gets 11 years for fatal crash

A trailer holds the mangled remnants of the Suzuki GSX-R1000 involved in the pedestrian-motorcycle crash on March 4, 2018, driven by Ronnie Huerta that was displayed outside for the jury Tuesday at the Cameron County Courthouse. Huerta pled guilty to manslaughter in connection with the death of Elizabeth Sweeten and the punishment trial is expected to continue Thursday. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

A Cameron County jury decided a motorcyclist who struck and killed a Port Isabel woman during a Spring Break accident will spend 11 years in prison for the crime.

The jury began a second day of deliberations Monday morning in the punishment trial of Ronnie Huerta. The Mercedes man pleaded guilty earlier this year to a manslaughter charge.

Huerta faced two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 for the death of Elizabeth Sweeten, a former journalist with the Port Isabel – South Padre Press, who was crossing Highway 100 on March 4, 2018, when Huerta struck her with his motorcycle. She died at the scene and he was critically injured. Huerta is now confined to a wheelchair.

On Friday, his 15-year-old sister Sabrina Cantu, testified that Huerta did not want to live when he woke up from a coma and didn’t remember the accident.

Martha McClain testified of her lifelong friendship with Sweeten that began more than 40 years ago. The two worked together at the Press. McClain described Sweeten as an intelligent, compassionate and caring woman.

Defense attorneys were hoping Huerta would be given probation because he is bound to the wheelchair for the rest of his life, but prosecutors were seeking a 15-year sentence.