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Woman hit by train while in police car says police destroyed crucial evidence – her memory

As Yareni Rios faces a felony charge for a road-rage allegation that occurred just before she was hit by a train, her attorney seeks to get the case dismissed.

A criminal defense attorney said this week that his client’s felony charge should be dismissed because police destroyed her memory of an alleged road-rage incident when they caused her to be hit by a train.

“She's being prosecuted for something that she no longer remembers,” said Chris Ponce, a defense attorney for Yareni Rios.

Rios was arrested Sept. 16, 2022, near Fort Lupton when a man claimed she pointed a gun at him during a road-rage incident. After Rios was pulled over and placed in a patrol vehicle parked on train tracks off Highway 85, a freight train collided with the car, causing numerous broken bones and head injuries. 

Rios is still going through physical and mental therapy, said her civil attorney, Paul Wilkinson.

As the officers who made the arrest face their own criminal charges in the case, Weld County prosecutors decided to file a felony menacing charge against Rios based on the road-rage allegation that occurred before the collision.

In a motion filed this week, Ponce argued that Rios’ due process rights were violated when police destroyed evidence in the case, which he argues is his client’s memory. Ponce argues the memory may have been exculpatory and that the felony charge should be dismissed.

“And she doesn't remember it because the police destroyed that memory. They stuck her in a patrol car, and she was hit by a train. So that's our argument. They had a responsibility to investigate this case professionally,” Ponce told 9NEWS.

Credit: Yareni Rios
A photo of Yareni Rios before she was hit by a freight train while detained in a police vehicle.

9NEWS legal analyst Scott Robinson called the motion “creative” but said it’s difficult to get cases dismissed on destroyed evidence because defense attorneys must prove such evidence was exculpatory.

Robinson noted the difficulties in the evidence laws because an attorney would need the actual destroyed evidence to prove it was exculpatory.

Former Platteville Police Officer Pablo Vazquez parked his unit on the tracks when he pulled over Rios off Highway 85 near Fort Lupton. He faces several misdemeanor charges in the case.

Fort Lupton Officer Jordan Steinke, who placed Rios in the police unit, is facing a felony charge in the case. 

The Weld County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment about Ponce’s motion. 

If you have any information about this case or would like to send a news tip, you can contact jeremy@9news.com

> Video below: Platteville officer described train incident in body camera footage:

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