Last updateSat, 07 Dec 2019 10am

Soccer star languishes in jail after deadly crash

One of Mexico’s most promising young soccer players will be held in prison for at least six months after being charged with causing the deaths of a newly married Guadalajara couple last weekend.

pg2aamaleck copyAlejandro Castro Martinez, 32, and Maria Fernanda Alvarez, 26, died instantly from traumatic brain injury when their Chevrolet Aveo was struck from behind by a Ford Mustang traveling at high speed on Avenida Tepeyac, a few blocks from the Patria intersection at 9 a.m. Sunday, June 23. The couple were on their way to set up their wedding party, having celebrated the religious and civil ceremonies a day earlier.

Due to social media posts, online newspaper reports and comments by Zapopan officials, the identity of the driver of the Mustang was quickly revealed: 20-year-old professional soccer player Joao Maleck, the son of Jean-Claude Maleck, a former Cameroonian player who came to Mexico in 1998 to play with the Guadalajara Tecos.

Initial reports suggested Maleck had been driving under the influence and a video of the young man partying at a club only a few hours earlier was soon posted on Twitter.  Dramatic video footage of the crash – from nearby gated community surveillance cameras  – also found its way online.

Maleck and his passenger suffered minor injuries and were taken to the Green Cross clinic in Zapopan, where the driver was later transferred to the affiliated Ministerio  Publico (prosecutor’s office or MP) for processing.

According to authorities, there was a lapse of five hours before Maleck was checked for DUI. The MP later revealed that Maleck’s urine tested positive while the blood samples were negative. They also said that the Mustang was being driven at around 80 kilometers an hour – more than twice the permitted speed for the built-up residential zone.

By the time Maleck had been charged with involuntary homicide – he was referred to by authorities in official documents as Joao “M” – the story had already traveled around the world.

Interviewed Monday by local Spanish-language newspapers, relatives of the couple expressed fears that justice might not be done due to the “celebrity” status of the presumed culprit.  “It wouldn’t be fair to the victims for him to get out that easily,” said Martinez’s cousin, Ernesto Martinez.

Jalisco Governor Enrique Alfaro also weighed in on the matter, urging the judiciary to pursue the case to the “full extent of the law.”

Moved on Monday to the Puente Grande penitentiary, Maleck went before a judge the following day and was remanded to six months’ pre-trial “preventative custody.” The judge noted there was a real possibility that he might flee the country if permitted bail since he has no fixed abode here.

Maleck was born in Mexico but also has two other nationalities: Cameroonian and French.  He is currently contracted to the Santos Laguna (Torreon) club and spent last season on loan to Sevilla Atlético in the second division of Spanish soccer.  He has also played for the Mexican national under-20s team.

The soccer star may still be released without serving any significant jail time, however, as the National Penal Code determines that all transit-related criminal cases can be annulled if financial compensation is agreed upon by both parties.

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