Man sentenced to 55 years for fatal high-speed chase



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Posted on February 28, 2013 at 7:18 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 28 at 7:21 PM

AUSTIN -- An Austin jury sentenced a man to 55 years in prison for his involvement in a fatal police chase.

The incident took place last June when 38-year-old Reynaldo Hernandez Jr. stole a silver pickup from the parking lot at Barton Creek Square Mall. He then sped away, ran a red light and slammed into a car as police followed him. The impact killed 32-year-old James Williford.

Hernandez Jr. was sentenced to 55 years in prison for the murder charge and 20 years for theft. Both charges are to be served concurrently.

A jury took less than 30 minutes Wednesday to find Hernandez Jr. guilty of the murder of Williford.

Family members on both sides were seen hugging and crying together in the hallway outside the courtroom.

"They're victims too and they will have to deal with losing a loved one just like we have," said Williford's wife Esther Seoanes.

"They were sentenced too because of his actions and they will have a lot to go through," said Williford's mother Miriam Stewart.

Hernandez is a father of seven, his 18-year-old daughter took the stand on Thursday. She said her father encouraged her to take dance lessons and to graduate high school.

Hernandez also took the stand. He told jurors he accepts and deserves his punishment. For the first time since he killed Williford, he apologized to the family.

Seoanes said she could relate to Hernandez and claimed they had a similar upbringing. She said, however, that everyone can choose their actions.

"I understand growing up in a bad situation, a dysfunctional family and such," Seoanes said. "But you do have a choice to do bad things or good things. You have a choice to steal a truck or not and to work two jobs or not work at all. Everybody makes these choices everyday."

Seoanes said Thursday's hearing was about justice for her husband.

Hernandez has an extensive criminal record including credit card abuse, burglary and assault on a family member.

Click here for information on a cancer fundraiser event that Williford used to organize that will take place in June in his honor.