Austin man sentenced to 25 years for roadside murder in 2019

AUSTIN (KXAN) — According to Travis County court records, an Austin man pleaded guilty to a 2019 traffic accident that killed a man on Pleasant Valley Road.

James Derks, 39, pleaded guilty to the January 5 murders. He was sentenced to 25 years in state prison.

In May 2019, Austin police found Eric Walz unconscious next to his car and was declared brain dead the next day.

On the day of the incident, a witness told police that another driver was chasing Walz and they were driving near William Cannon Drive and Interstate 35. The witness said they believed Walz distanced himself from the other car.

Police said footage showed Walz stopping his car and approaching Derks’ car on Pleasant Valley Road. Derks’ car then drove into Waltz, sending him onto the hood of the car, through the air, and onto the ground.

In an interview with police, Derks said that he and Waltz were driving down Pleasant Valley Road. According to him, at a traffic light, Walz raced past him, got out of the car and jumped Derks on the hood. Derks said he was driving forward at 10 to 15 mph before Walz fell off the hood. He told the police that he left because he feared for his life.

Dirk’s testimony did not match the testimony of a witness or CCTV footage, which police said showed Walz preparing as the car pulled up beside him.

In 2019, police said Derks had been linked to more than 40 911 calls with reports of someone recklessly or aggressively driving vehicles registered in his name over the past 10 years. One 911 call included a woman who said Derks pulled out a knife and pointed at her in traffic when she wouldn’t let him pass.

Derks was charged with other charges of accidental death and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, but these charges were dismissed.

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