Editor's note: This story was updated at 8:12 p.m. Monday with comments from Owen County Commonwealth's Attorney James Crawford.
A part-time Franklin County Sheriff’s Office court security officer has been fired after his arrest over the weekend on charges of driving an ATV while intoxicated and killing his passenger in a wreck.
Mario Chavez, 42, posted a $10,000 cash bond Sunday morning. He was arrested after an ATV crash Friday afternoon on Old Landing Road in Monterey in southern Owen County left a 73-year-old passenger, Patricia Karsner, dead.
Chavez currently faces charges of first-degree assault, a Class B felony, and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, 0.08 aggravator, first offense, a Class B misdemeanor. He faces between 10 and 20 years in prison if convicted of those charges.
It was not immediately clear whether authorities will pursue upgraded charges. Commonwealth’s Attorney James Crawford, of Owen County, said that he is waiting to review the Kentucky State Police report.
"I don't have a full investigative report from KSP," he said. "When I get it in, as I routinely do for every case, I'll study it and decide whether to take it to the grand jury."
Crawford said his next grand jury will convene July 23. But, at any point before then, Chavez could have the charges against him upgraded.
Sheriff Chris Quire, who rehired Chavez as a part-time court security officer earlier this year, said that it was not the first time Chavez has faced DUI charges. He previously was charged with a driving while intoxicated in Shelby County in 2016. But given his performance after the DUI case and that the charges had been expunged, Quire said he decided to give Chavez a second chance.
“It looks bad — but if you think about it he was working part-time for $13 an hour, he was qualified and he was willing to help with translation for other deputies,” Quire said. “I guess we shouldn’t have given him a second chance, but he did what he needed to do and got the charge expunged. We looked, and he was doing good at the time. It just turned out bad.”
Quire said he had been trying to contact Chavez since he posted bond to get his side of the story, but the calls went without response.
Chavez, of Frankfort, had previously worked for FCSO from 2015 until his DUI arrest in 2016, when then-Sheriff Pat Melton terminated his employment. Two months prior to his dismissal, Chavez was hailed as a hero for helping to save the life of an Administrative Office of the Courts employee who went into cardiac arrest at the courthouse.
Chavez went on to have the DUI charge expunged from his record and had been working part-time at the Owen County courthouse before being rehired by FCSO earlier this year. He also has been a proprietor of Casa Mexican Restaurant in Owenton since 1994, according to his LinkedIn account.
Quire said he terminated Chavez from duty on Monday, adding that since Chavez was part-time he was a “work-at-will” employee and not subject to the officers' bill of rights, which would have required he be suspended without pay pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.
"I feel bad for everyone involved," Quire said. "It's bad for the victim's family and for (Chavez's) family."
According to Kentucky State Police reports, Chavez was driving an ATV about 4:30 p.m. Friday with Karsner as a passenger. The two were on Old Landing Road when they crashed and Karsner suffered critical injuries, KSP reported.
State police said Chavez called 911, and Karsner was taken by helicopter to University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 8:09 p.m.
Chavez, who was determined to be driving the ATV under the influence by an Owen County deputy responding to the accident scene, was arrested.
He was booked into the Carroll County Detention Center at 9:11 p.m. Friday. After going before a judge, his bond was set at $10,000 cash on the charges of assault and DUI, which Chavez later posted.
KSP is still investigating the crash.