On the night of Dec. 7, 2012, the Barajas family was just a few hundred feet from home in Alvin, Texas, when their Ford pickup truck ran out of gas.
Their entire world changed.
The father, construction worker David Barajas, and his two older sons, David Jr., 12 and Caleb, 11, got out to push the pickup down the county road. Their mother, Cindy, stayed inside the truck with the family's two younger children.
That’s when a drunk driver in a Chevy Malibu slammed into them, sending the pickup into a ditch and fatally wounding the older boys.
That driver, 20-year-old José Banda, was found shot in the head at the crash site.
A few months later, David Barajas, 31, turned himself in after being indicted for the murder of that driver. He’s been held on $450,000 bail ever since.
Barajas’ trial, which began on Monday, is reopening a tragic case that drove a wedge in a small community 30 miles southeast of Houston.
“I don’t know what any person would do if they lost two children in front of their eyes,” David Barajas’ brother, Gabriel, told the Houston Chronicle. “My brother tried to help one, realized he was not making it and then went to the other. The next thing he remembers is waking up naked at the hospital."
His clothes had been stripped off by hospital staff because they were soaked by the blood of his sons.
“More than 1,600 people came for the funeral viewing. They were lined up and down the street. Some had to wait three hours to make it inside," Gabriel told the Chronicle.
Relatives and friends recall the boys as inseparable. They both dreamed of becoming great football players or starring in a sitcom together.
They were huge Houston Texans fans, and enjoyed playing basketball and soccer. Caleb’s nickname was “Big C." David was just David. He was the more outgoing of the two.
“They were good boys,” a 15-year-old neighbor named Paloma Hernandez who frequently played hoops with them told the Associated Press. “They were a tight-knit family.”
After they died, some contents of their last letters to Santa were made public.
Caleb asked Santa for a Houston Texans jersey.
David’s letter betrayed his more worldly attitude: He addressed it to his parents and asked for a pair of headphones he knew were expensive.
Maybe they could wrap some packages of Doritos or a case of Mountain Dew in order to even out the number of gifts each child received?
One of their great-uncles, Mark Barajas, told the Chronicle that within the family there had been “a lot of second guessing about what [David and Cindy] could have done to stop it from happening.”
The town itself fractured, at least on social media.
Some flocked to a Facebook page remembering José Banda, who left a 2-year-old daughter, and posted comments saying, “What you did was an accident … but you were murdered.”
Others went to “Free David Barajas” to share thoughts like, “I don’t condone what he did, but I don’t blame him. He saw his kids and reacted. I would have done the same if it where my children.”