Port Arthur man must serve at least half of sentence for wreck that killed officer

Published 12:36 am Wednesday, July 27, 2022

BEAUMONT — Luis Torres, who was found guilty in the intoxication manslaughter crash of Beaumont Police Officer Sheena Yarbrough-Powell, must serve at least half of his 20-year sentence before he becomes eligible for parole.

Torres, 20, receives credit for the two years he spent behind bars for the Aug. 9, 2020 crash, making him eligible for a parole hearing in eight years, according to information from the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office.

Waylon Thompson, one of the prosecutors in the case, said he was hoping for a lengthier sentence, but “the jury did their job.”

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Torres still faces another charge related to the crash — aggravated assault with a deadly weapon due to injuries sustained by Officer Gabriel Fells, who was in the vehicle with Yarbrough-Powell, 23, at the time of the crash. Fells sustained broken ribs, among other injuries.

Torres, then 18, had a blood alcohol content almost three times the legal limit. The night of the fatal crash Torres spent time at Tequila’s restaurant, where he drank two margaritas and then consumed alcohol at a party and a second gathering.

He admitted to being black-out drunk and told jurors he didn’t remember getting behind the wheel of his mother’s Ford Mustang and being involved in the crash.

He was driving the wrong way on Cardinal Drive near Texas 347 in Beaumont when he struck the patrol unit head-on.

Yarbrough-Powell died instantly from severe head trauma and was crushed between the dashboard and the door.

Torres told jurors he was disgusted with himself and he made a stupid choice.

He said no words of apology could reverse his actions and he didn’t wake up that morning saying he wanted to take someone’s life.

During testimony last week, Tyler Powell, Yarbrough-Powell’s husband, told of learning of her death and of how it has affected him.

Sheena, he said, was his world.

“She was my purpose, my reason to do anything in life,” Powell said.  “I have no drive. I have no purpose alone. I lost everything.”

Sleep is difficult.

“I try to sleep at night. When I go to sleep I just beg God not to let me wake up and when I wake up the next morning I just hate my life. I frankly don’t want to live in a world that person is not in,” he said.

Defense attorney Tom Burbank brought forth witnesses who told of Torres’ involvement in school and the scholarship he received in which he planned to attend Lamar University and major in business and minor in journalism.

Stephanie Bass, an employee at Bob Hope Charter School, called him a leader and a special kid that was going places.

Torres withdrew a guilty plea to the intoxication manslaughter charge in May that would have capped his sentence at 30 years. Before sentencing on Monday he faced five to 99 years in prison.