Sheriff’s worst suspicions confirmed in country singer’s fatal crash

Maria Elena Cruz, 16, victim of Kylie Rae Harris
Maria Elena Cruz, 16, was killed by country singer Kylie Rae Harris who was driving at excessive speeds and impaired by alcohol in early September. (Image: Fundraiser for Ms. Cruz; page created by Nicole Cisneros Jederlinic)

Taos county sheriff Jerry Hogrefe had long suspected alcohol a factor in the fatal crash caused by 30 year old country singer Kylie Rae Harris near the New Mexico border in early September. Now Hogrefe’s worst suspicions have been confirmed.

Highway 567, junction, near Taos, Taos, New Mexico. (John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive, US Library of Congress)
Highway 567 junction, near Taos, New Mexico. (John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive, US Library of Congress)

Toxicology test results were announced officially on December 5. Hogrefe had already disclosed excessive speed—102 miles per hour according to Harris’ car’s computer—was a factor. Harris clipped the end of a black Chevrolet Avalanche truck on State Road 522. According to data, Harris was going 95 miles per hour when she swerved into the opposite lane and hit a Jeep SUV Maria Elena Cruz was driving.

Cruz was 16 years old.

In September the sheriff had told a reporter, “Miss Cruz was an innocent victim of this senseless crash caused by Ms. Harris.” That incident heaped horror on top of horror for Miss Cruz’s family—her father, a deputy fire chief, was driving by the scene of the accident and stopped, only to learn his daughter was the victim.

Making the speeding factor worse was the fact alcohol was involved. Toxicology results showed Harris’ blood alcohol content was .28, a level more than three times the legal level for driving. Harris had a troubled past, according to members of her family.

Now the Cruz family must come to terms with the loss of a young woman who died far too soon as the result of another person’s bad choices.

The sheriff posted highlights from the latest news release on the Taos County Sheriff’s Facebook page.

Ms. Cruz’s best friend Jaylene Romero started a Go-Fund-Me page to help the Cruz family, but the page is no longer accepting donations.

The sheriff had been outspoken about his opinion on causes for the crash from the beginning, and now his worst suspicions have been confirmed. In the December 5 release, Sheriff Hogrefe said, “The now competed investigation supports what we suspected at the time of our initial investigation and my earlier press release that stated alcohol consumption was suspected and speeding was a factor”.

(Kay B. Day/Dec. 9, 2019)

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