Victim: James Rook

Drunk Driving Illegal Alien Kills 3, Seriously Injures Another

Perpetrator: Jesus Bernal

Crime Description:

On June 24, 2006 James and Margie Rook of Cincinnati were driving in Florida when a drunk driving illegal alien, Jesus Bernal of Mexico, tried to pass a car on the right shoulder, overcorrected, and when he tried to get back on the road and hit the Rook”s car head-on near Freeport. James Rook, 43, and his wife, Margie Rook, 41, were killed in the crash. Two others in the car, Magan Doherty, 14, and Kylie Rook, 14, were also injured. Doherty was listed in critical condition at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Panama City the day after the wreck. All four people in the Rook's car were wearing seat belts.

A passenger in the pickup, Arnulfo Morales, known as Jose Barrintos Bonta, also died as a result of the wreck. Bernal and another passenger were injured.

Neither the state attorney’s office nor the Walton County Jail could find proof Bernal was a legal resident at the time of the deadly accident and surmised he was in the U.S. illegally. The jail had his country of residence listed as Mexico, and no Social Security number for him was in its records.

Bernal admitted he was drunk when he crashed his pickup into the Rook’s car. In September 2007, he pleaded guilty to three counts of DUI manslaughter and two counts of DUI with serious bodily injury. Bernal had two prior DUI convictions, and was sentenced to 55 years in prison.

James Rook is a long-time member of The Fast Forward Band, where he played drums. Rook was best known for his style of playing the drums while standing

On Friday June 22nd 2007, a plaque honoring Jim was dedicated at Deaconess Hospital. Jim had worked at Deaconess for over 20 years and his co-workers there became part of his "extended" family. The plaque will be displayed in the same corridor leading to the OR that Jim had walked daily.

See the Fast Forward Band Memorial for James Rook.


25JUN06, WLWT 5, Cincinnatti
Florida Crash Kills Cincinnati Couple

17SEP07, Northwest Florida Daily News
Man pleads no contest to three counts of DUI manslaughter, by Tom McLaughlin

Drunk Driver Receives Maximum Sentence

3NOV07, WLWT 5 News, Cincinnati
Drunk Driver Gets 55 Years For Killing Tri-State Couple