LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The family of a moped rider who a drunk driver killed going 141 mph in a rented Lamborghini believes his killer should have faced a murder charge, but the state’s highest court forbids it.
Andrew Rodriguez, 34, of El Paso, Texas, is serving a minimum 6-year sentence for the crash, which killed Walter “Jaye” Anderson, 58.
“For me, I wish he would have lost control of his car, rolled it and killed himself, but that’s just how I am,” Walter Anderson’s younger sister, Joan Anderson Shelley, said. “You asked how it changed us? That’s how it changed me.”
The 8 News Now Investigators have followed Rodriguez’s case for more than a year. The Investigators obtained body camera video from the crash site, which shows the investigating officer’s initial response and his interactions with Rodriguez and witnesses.
The crash site on Russell Road near Decatur Boulevard looked more like an explosion than a collision with pieces of metal and human remains spread across several lanes of traffic. Paramedics arrived in an attempt to save Walter Anderson, but there was no hope – his body was split in two.
Rodriguez approaches the officer, telling him he just killed a man.
“It was a f***** accident man. Dude, I killed somebody,” Rodriguez tells the officer.
“Just relax,” the officer responds.
“No, you don’t understand,” Rodriguez says.
“I do understand,” the officer replies.
In the same exchange, Rodriguez tells the officer he drank at an apartment on the Las Vegas Strip before driving to another party.
“Have you had anything to drink tonight?” the officer asks.
“Yea, yea, two shots of tequila,” Rodriguez says.
“Two shots of tequila,” the officer repeats.
“Nothing crazy,” Rodriguez says.
Rodriguez was in Las Vegas to celebrate his birthday. The events of June 5, 2021, would not be his first time driving impaired. In 2015, he faced a charge of driving while intoxicated in Texas, the 8 News Now Investigators found. He pleaded guilty in 2017. A judge ordered him to have an interlock device on his car for a year, documents revealed.
Rodriguez did not have a valid driver’s license and was driving the Lamborghini, which was rented to someone else, documents said.
The body camera video shows the responding officer approaching the mangled vehicle for the first time. Its front end crushed, its windshield smashed – Walter Anderson’s moped lodged under it.
“Holy s***,” the officer said on video.
Walter Anderson was on his moped, riding home from a shift at Denny’s where he was a cook. The sisters became concerned about his well-being when a person at Denny’s called saying Jaye missed a shift.
The following afternoon, the Clark County coroner’s office had called asking them to describe their brother’s scars.
“He just demolished a human being,” Joan Anderson Shelley said. She and her older sister, Antoinette Alderman, went to the crash site several days later, finding pieces of their brother’s vehicle.
Markings on the road indicated where police found pieces of their brother’s body.
“He’s not a statistic. He wasn’t an animal. He was a human being,” Alderman said.
About 25 minutes into the body camera video, the officer places Rodriguez into handcuffs.
“At this point, you are being placed under arrest for DUI, OK? You are also being placed under arrest for reckless driving, OK?” the officer says.
Rodriguez, who had blood on his shirt, was able to walk away from the crash site. His passenger also survived. Prosecutors charged Rodriguez with DUI resulting in death – the harshest penalty Nevada law allows.
The DUI resulting in death statute carries a prison sentence of 2-20 years. It is classified as a Category B felony. Rodriguez took a plea deal, avoiding a trial and sending him to prison for a minimum of six to a maximum of 20 years.
“My brother didn’t get a deal here,” Alderman said. “It’s murder. Let’s be real. It’s murder.”
Nevada law says it is not.
“I equate somebody’s choice to drive 140 mph under the influence of alcohol to one of the highest level of criminal behavior,” Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said.
Wolfson and his team of prosecutors have tried to charge DUI drivers, who kill a person and who speed and who drive with no care for another person’s life, with murder.
“This is a person who made the choice to drive this way,” Wolfson said.
A 2020 ruling from the Nevada Supreme Court said prosecutors’ attempts to charge a speeding intoxicated driver who killed a man with murder was not legal. In their order, the justices wrote: “although malice may be inferred from the facts of this case, which would support a charge of second-degree murder, the Legislature has preempted such a charge for cases of non-intentional vehicular homicide.”
“My intent is to go back to the Legislature to ask them to recognize that there are these extraordinary circumstances,” Wolfson said. “That’s how we deter people from engaging in this type of behavior.”
“I’m very sorry. It was an accident,” Rodriguez told the Anderson family in court in August during his sentencing.
Legally, the violent fatal crash is categorized as an accident. Walter Anderson’s cause of death is listed as blunt force trauma. His manner of death was ruled accidental.
“An accident is going 50 miles, 55 miles an hour in a 45 — that’s an accident,” Joan Anderson Shelly said. “Demolishing and murdering someone is exactly what you did.”
“What does this say about the law?” 8 News Now Investigators asked the sisters.
“It’s weak, it’s lenient. Our laws don’t care about victims or the deceased or their families,” Alderman said.
The Anderson family is hopeful lawmakers either increase penalties or allow for deaths like Jaye’s to be classified as murder.
“He used a vehicle,” Alderman said. “That was his murder weapon.”
Rodriguez, who told police in the body camera video that he has a young child, will be up for parole in 2028. A judge ordered him to have an interlock device put on his car for several years upon his release.