Restaurant News

UPDATED: Ex-Boyfriend of "Enchilada Queen" Sylvia Casares Pleads Guilty to 2012 Shooting

In March 2012, Sylvia Casares, chef and owner of Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen, was shot in the stomach by her then-boyfriend Michael Warren, police said. Warren, a regular cook at Casares's food truck, No Borders, and a partner in the Sylvia's restaurant chain fled in Casares car after the shooting, which took place outside her home near Fulshear. Casares was taken by life flight to Memorial Hermann Hospital before being transferred to another undisclosed hospital where she underwent surgery for her injury. Warren was eventually arrested, and Casares made a full recovery.

After a jury was selected for the trial, Warren pleaded guilty Tuesday to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, his lawyer, Emily Detoto, confirms. She says his sentence could be anywhere from two years of probation to ten years in prison.

The Houston Chronicle was the first to report that a plea had been entered in the case. Court dockets online show that the sentencing hearing is scheduled for August 29 in Fort Bend County.

The exact reasons for the shooting are not yet known, but Casares has talked candidly about the incident and has said she believed she was going to die. In a December 2012 chef chat with Mai Pham, Casares said:

"I just thought: "Oh my God, what am I gonna do? This is not how I'm supposed to die. This is not how it's supposed to end." I've always been dutiful to whatever it is I'm working on -- raising my kids, or working, or doing a restaurant. I've always put myself last. I haven't had to time to enjoy my life. And so, you talk about a wake-up call -- it was beyond a wake-up call, it was like bugles or something blowing in my ear!"

Immediately after the shooting, Casares says, she also thought about her career and how she had worked too hard for it all to end that way. She told Pham she recalls thinking:

"How am I going to survive this? I'm not going like this. This is not how I'm supposed to go. So the fighter in me, the same woman that circled the wagons and figured out how to turn her restaurant around in that hole in the wall is the same one who figured out how to hold on, and get help, and hang on. You know it was sort of 'Yeah, I'm gonna fight like hell, I'm not going like this. This is a waste.'"

Since the incident, Casares has gone back to work at the helm of two successful restaurants and a catering company. She's currently preparing to open a third restaurant.

Update: Casares has issued a statement about the plea.

Dear Friends:

My reaction to the news that Mr. Warren has pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony, was one of relief that this chapter in my life will soon be part of my past when he is sentenced. I forgave Mr. Warren a long time ago, and I am sure he will be sentenced to jail for the appropriate time frame equal to the amount of physical and emotional pain I suffered. I am so very grateful for the outpouring of love and support I received from my customers, employees, friends and family, all of whom have helped me heal. I am at peace now, and completely free to focus my attention and energies on opening of my new restaurant on Eldridge this August.

Thank you, Sylvia Casares

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Kaitlin Steinberg