Track Star Killed By Suspected Drunk Driver - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Track Star Killed By Suspected Drunk Driver

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A Tennessee State University student died Saturday when another driver broadsided her vehicle on Old Hickory Boulevard.

Metro police said 24-year-old Victor Benitez was drunk as he ran a red light at the intersection of Old Hickory Boulevard and Nolensville Road, killing 22-year-old Joycelyn Gardiner.

"Just a tremendous young lady, from all accounts, who had all types of potential," said Don Aaron, Metro police spokesman.

"According to the witnesses who attempted to render aid to both victims, Benitez smelled strongly of alcohol and was very combative," Aaron said.

Investigators said Benitez was drunk and did not touch the brakes of his Ford Expedition before hitting Gardiner's car.

Gardiner and Benitez were taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center where Gardiner died. Benitez was treated and released from the hospital and jailed Saturday afternoon.

"Because of this crash that apparently involves alcohol by the other driver, her life is lost," Aaron said.

Police said Benitez was driving without a license and that he didn't have paperwork verifying that he was in the United States legally.

"They learned that he is a suspected illegal immigrant, thus, a federal hold was placed on him so he cannot make bond," Aaron said.

In February 2006, Benitez was arrested on three counts of car burglary and two counts of attempted theft. Nine months later, he was arrested on charges of public intoxication, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Convicted on the three charges, Benitez spent seven days in jail. 

The Mexican native now faces a vehicular homicide charge. His preliminary hearing is set for 9 a.m. Thursday.

"This is just a devastating story for Tennessee State University," Aaron said.

Gardiner ran track for the Tigerbelles.

Authorities realized Benitez's possible illegal status thanks to a new program that links into the federal data base.

Benitez did have an identification card from Houston, Texas.

Gardiner, a Texas native, planned to attend law school after graduation.

TSU plans to hold a memorial service for Gardiner.

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