A woman from El Salvador charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with a crash that killed a Henrico County woman might have fled the U.S. to avoid prosecution, according to the prosecutor handling the case.
Osmaira E. Mendez-Urdaneta was charged following the Aug. 16 wreck in which her vehicle went off the road and struck 59-year-old Beverly Page Bourgeois as she was doing yard work along North Parham Road near Tucker High School.
The day after the crash, authorities filed charges of reckless driving and driving without a license against Mendez-Urdaneta, 48, of Henrico. Bourgeois, who was taken to the hospital following the crash, died two weeks later, on Aug. 30, according to police.
Mendez-Urdaneta was scheduled to attend an Oct. 25 court hearing in Henrico General District Court on the reckless driving charge. Rob Cerullo, a Powhatan County prosecutor who is prosecuting the case, said Thursday he had been planning to withdraw the misdemeanor reckless driving count at that hearing because he was weighing bringing a more serious charge.
But Mendez-Urdaneta didn’t show up to court, the prosecutor said. Authorities later obtained a warrant to arrest Mendez-Urdaneta on an involuntary manslaughter charge but so far they’ve been unable to serve it on the defendant, Cerullo said.
“She is a fugitive from justice. We believe she has fled the Richmond area if not the commonwealth [of Virginia] entirely, and we are attempting to locate her,” Cerullo said.
The prosecutor said he is not aware that Mendez-Urdaneta has indeed fled the U.S., but added that is a “distinct possibility.”
“We are working with [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] contacts, Homeland Security, to try and locate her,” Cerullo said.
ICE records show that a woman who has the same date of birth as Mendez-Urdaneta and has used another name has been illegally living in the U.S. and was ordered by an immigration judge back in 2001 to depart from the U.S.
Arden Bourgeois, Beverly Bourgeois’ stepson, said the lack of closure in the case is frustrating for the family.
“As far as I’m concerned, any time she gets behind the wheel, people are in danger,” Bourgeois said of Mendez-Urdaneta.
Bourgeois said his stepmother had been trimming bushes at a home she rents out along North Parham Road when the crash occurred. He added that his stepmother was hit by the vehicle as she was getting the house ready for new tenants to move in.
“She was amazing. She was full of life,” Bourgeois said of his stepmother. “She was the person everybody went to when you needed to talk to somebody. My children absolutely adored her.”
Bourgeois said his stepmother had been married to his father for about 25 years. He added that Beverly Bourgeois helped take care of his father, who is 74 years old.
Cerullo, the Powhatan prosecutor, said he was appointed to handle the case because a prosecutor in the Henrico commonwealth attorney’s office is related by marriage to Beverly Bourgeois.
Cerullo said Mendez-Urdaneta’s vehicle swerved off the road and traveled over a long stretch of grass before her vehicle struck Bourgeois.
Following the incident, Bourgeois’ husband said Mendez-Urdaneta told him that she had fallen asleep while driving, Cerullo said. The prosecutor added that the defendant never obtained a driver’s license.
“All we can do, going forward from here, is find her and prosecute her,” Cerullo said.