An 18-year old Corpus Christi man is sitting in the Nueces County Jail facing charges of capital murder and assault family violence.
Matthew Lara was arrested Sunday after police were called out to his girlfriend's apartment in the 1900 block of Rodd Field Road. They found his girlfriend, who was three month's pregnant, badly beaten.
The victim was beaten so badly that she lost the baby, and as Kiii News Anchor Rudy Trevino reports, some are questioning whether murder is an appropriate charge.
The Matthew Lara case is sure to open the debate over the issue of when life actually begins. Nueces County District Attorney Mark Skurka said there are many factors in determining what charges Lara will face once the police investigation is complete and ready to be presented to a Grand Jury.
"At any stage of the gestation period, it is considered an individual that way prosecutors can now prosecute people for injuring the unborn," Skurka said.
Skurka said the Texas Legislature passed a law determining that life begins at conception, but when it comes to charging an individual with a crime where a fetus is concerned, it gets complicated.
One of the factors in determining the charges include whether the perpetrator knew the victim was pregnant. In the initial police report, known as the probable cause statement, the responding officers said that "Lara stated the victim, Amanda Quintanilla, is pregnant but he did not know if it was his baby."
The incident report states that Lara pushed Quintanilla after she allegedly began hitting him. Police said evidence showed that the victim had been hit in the stomach, and had hand marks and bruising on her stomach and around her neck.
The woman was transported to Bay Area Hospital, and Lara was taken to jail. Soon after, police learned that Quintanilla had lost her baby.
"There's still other requirements you have to make. Like intent to see if they knew the person was pregnant. If there was an intent to kill, which is another requirement for capital murder, you have to have that specific intent to murder them," Skurka said. "And also there's a causation question. It has to show that the fetuses death was a direct result of the defendant's actions."
While the charges against Lara are capital murder and assault family violence, ultimately, it will be up to a Grand Jury to decide what will and will not stand up in a court of law. It could be some time before the case goes to trial.