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Prosecutors detail Fort Worth officer's drinking as intoxication manslaughter trial opens

FORT WORTH -- While 27-year-old Sonia Baker played with her two sons at home one day last December, Fort Worth narcotics officer Jesus Cisneros, 38, traveled from bar to bar with a partner. They were undercover, posing as drug and gun dealers.

That evening, as Baker waited for her husband to return from his night-shift job, Cisneros downed beers and shots of liquor at a fellow officer's birthday party at the Pour House on West Seventh Street.

Their lives collided about 2:25 a.m. at an intersection in far southwest Fort Worth. Cisneros' city-issued Toyota Highlander slammed broadside into Baker's PT Cruiser. Baker was killed instantly.

Tarrant County prosecutor Bill Vassar described those scenes Tuesday on the opening day of Cisneros' trial on a charge of intoxication manslaughter.

Cisneros' blood-alcohol level was 0.17 -- more than twice the legal limit -- and he was driving 76 mph westbound on Columbus Trail when he hit Baker's car as she turned onto Columbus from Eveningstar Drive, just blocks from her home.

Cisneros resigned from the police force on Dec. 21. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

An accident-reconstruction expert, a toxicologist and a Tarrant County medical examiner are expected to testify today.

But Tuesday's testimony by Cisneros' partner, Baker's husband and a man who witnessed Cisneros' erratic driving set the stage for the more technical testimony to come.

Undercover work

Officer Eric Martinez, who was working undercover in narcotics, said Cisneros called him shortly after Martinez finished his day shift on Dec. 10, 2009, and asked for help investigating a complaint about a human-trafficking ring that used Honduran women as prostitutes and drug dealers.

Although he was off-duty, Martinez said, he agreed to introduce Cisneros to people who thought Martinez was a drug and gun dealer. The two went to three south Fort Worth bars where they each drank a beer or two at each bar, he said. Then they went to colleague's birthday party at the Pour House.

Martinez testified that he wasn't sure how much Cisneros drank at the party but that he didn't appear to be intoxicated when he drove Martinez home.

Martinez was suspended for 60 days for violating department rules that night.

Pour House surveillance tapes showed Cisneros drinking 12 separate drinks over four hours, forensic analyst Mark Porter testified. Cisneros drank eight beers and four shots of liquor, Vassar said.

Defense attorney Jim Lane suggested that Cisneros was drinking the same beer in several of the video shots. Questioned further by prosecutor Richard Alpert, however, Porter said he could distinguish different beers by the colors of bottles. He also noted that Cisneros did not appear to be intoxicated.

Sometime later, after Cisneros left the Pour House, a driver on McCart Avenue called 911 to report a Toyota Highlander speeding south.

After the Highlander nearly clipped his bumper, the driver, Luis Patino, testified, he tried to catch up with the SUV to get the license plate number. The Highlander driver "blew through" two red lights and was weaving across lanes as Patino called 911, he testified.

A fast food run

Baker's husband, Mario, testified that his wife was up when he arrived home from work. She had taken the next day off from work so they could visit her father's grave on his birthday.

After checking online to be sure her husband's paycheck had been deposited, Sonia Baker left for a nearby McDonald's to get something to eat for them. After she left, their sons said they wanted food, too, so Mario Baker called his wife's cellphone. When she didn't answer two calls, he said, he went to find her.

When he saw the wreck, "I jumped out and ran," he said, choking back tears. "The cop wouldn't let me near the car, so I took the kids to my mother-in-law's and came back."

A medical examiner's investigator later confirmed that his wife was dead, he said.

Martha Deller, 817-390-7857

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