The Mullin woman who drove a pickup into high water at Ten Mile Crossing early on the morning of Mother’s Day has been indicted on a charge of criminally negligent homicide in connection with the death of the woman’s mother, who was a passenger in the pickup.
Kathy Armendarez, 41, was arrested Wednesday in Mills County and brought to the Brown County Jail, where she was freed on $5,000 bond, jail records state.
Armendarez is accused by indictment of causing the death of her mother, 59-year-old Susan Smith, “by driving into water of an unknown depth or failing to stop at a high water barricade or road closed sign.”
Armendarez and a male passenger, Lynn Leonard, 29, got out of the pickup after it entered the high water of the Pecan Bayou at the crossing on County Road 257 around 1:30 a.m., authorities said earlier. Smith, who was riding in a jump seat in the rear of the cab, did not make it out of the vehicle. Searchers located the pickup 18 days later after the water receded and recovered Smith’s body.
Sheriff’s investigator Leighton Wyatt said it’s his understanding that Smith and Armendarez lived in the same home. Wyatt said Armendarez had worked as a nurse though he was not sure if she was working as a nurse at the time.
Wyatt said he was told Armendarez drove Smith to a Brownwood bar, where they met Leonard and played pool with him, Wyatt said. The women did not know Leonard previously, he said. Witnesses reported seeing Armendarez having a couple of drinks, and Armenderaz said she had two drinks, Wyatt said.
The three left in Armendarez’s pickup, planning to return to the women’s home and continue playing pool, Wyatt said. He said they traveled down County Road 267 and turned left onto County Road 257, bypassing a barricade that stretched across half the width of the road. The barricade bore a sign that warned of high water. There was also a sign on CR 267 warning of high water at Ten Mile Crossing, authorities have said.
Leonard, who had been using his phone, noticed the high water warning and asked Armenderaz about it, Wyatt said. When Armendarez tried to drive across Ten Mile Crossing, the pickup entered the swift, high water, was swept away and began quickly sinking, Wyatt said.
Armendarez and Leonard could not open the pickup’s doors because of the water, and made it out after rolling down the windows. Armendarez thought her mother had gone out one of the windows, and Armendarez and Leonard called out for Smith, Wyatt said.
Leonard made it out of the water and went for help, and first responders found Armendarez still in the water and clinging to the bank. After rescuing Armendarez from the water, an extensive search by ground, water and air began in an effort to locate the pickup and Smith.