Pathologist details trauma suffered by Beaumont officer in deadly head-on crash

Published 4:18 pm Thursday, July 21, 2022

BEAUMONT — Beaumont Police Officer Sheena Yarbrough-Powell died instantly from severe head trauma, a forensic pathologist testified Thursday in the intoxication manslaughter trial of Luis Torres.

Dr. Ray Fernandez said the cause of death for Yarbrough-Powell was blunt force head trauma, adding an autopsy showed fractures to the right and left sides of her skull, as well as fractures at the base of her skull on the left, right, front and back.

Fernandez performed the autopsy on the 23-year-old Yarbrough-Powell May 10, 2020, one day after the fatal crash on U.S. 69 in Beaumont.

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A highly intoxicated Torres, now 20, was driving a 2006 Ford Mustang the wrong way on the highway when he collided with a Ford Explorer driven by BPD Officer Gabriel Fells.

Fells was severally injured; Yarbrough-Powell died at the scene.

Jurors in Judge John Stevens’ courtroom saw graphic autopsy photos of Yarbrough-Powell showing the skull fractures, upper and lower broken jaws, and lacerations showing brain tissue, as well as other injuries, some of which include a broken nose, missing teeth, ear damage, broken thumb and middle finger, and her femur was broken in half. She also had bruises on her lungs on both sides and blood in her chest, suggesting internal bleeding.

Upon questioning by Prosecutor Waylon Thompson, Fernandez said Yarbrough-Powell was overall healthy and could have lived to her 80s.

The attorney asked Fernandez, “just for our benefit, how long did it take her to pass away.”

“Once the impacts happened to the head, the person was pretty much fatal… upon impact. The heart may still beat a couple of beats. It could be because a small amount of blood is in the left and right sides of the chest, but once the impact happened to the head of the person, there is no more brain function,” Fernandez said.

During the morning proceedings, Prosecutor Pat Knauth called Katelyn Rodriguez to the stand, where she told of seeing Torres the night of the deadly crash.

Rodriguez and her boyfriend were living at a set of apartments in Nederland and they, along with a friend, Ray, decided to sit around and play games together.

Ray has invited a friend of his, Luis Torres, of Port Arthur, whom she had never met before. Torres reportedly texted Ray before arriving saying he had been drinking at Tequila’s restaurant and was drunk already.

Rodriguez, her boyfriend and Ray were drinking Modella beer, and Torres asked for one when he arrived. She did not know he was underage.

Later, Torres went to the kitchen with Ray and dropped a beer bottle. He cleaned it up, then went back to the other room, sat on a flowerpot and fell off it onto Rodriguez’s boyfriend’s lunchbox.

These actions indicated to Rodriguez that Torres was intoxicated, so all three individuals asked him to stay the night.

Torres said he was the manager of a store and had to go to work in the morning and could not stay, so Ray said he would follow Torres home.

Rodriguez testified by the time Ray got outside, Torres was gone. They learned of the crash the next morning.