Werner trainee receives 50 years for murder in stabbing death of driver trainer

May 18, 2018

Greg Grisolano

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A Texas jury needed only 90 minutes to find a former Werner driver trainee guilty of murder in the 2015 stabbing death of his trainer.

The jury sentenced 48-year-old Stanley Polk of Las Vegas, to 50 years in prison and a fine of $5,000, during a sentencing hearing on Friday morning. Polk was found guilty of murdering truck driver Ronald Ruiz, 62, of South Bend, Ind., after an altercation at a rest stop off Interstate 35 at 281, south of Salado on Aug. 27, 2015.

The trial began Monday in district court in Bell County, Texas.

Both men were working for Werner Enterprises and had been together for about a week before the stabbing. Defense attorneys for Polk argued that the crime was self-defense and that Ruiz had been the instigator in the confrontation.

At the time of the arrest, a family representative of Ruiz said in a statement to Land Line that Ruiz had on at least two occasions reported problems with Polk to Werner. According to the representative, Ruiz was told to keep Polk on the truck until the two returned to South Bend.

In the initial reporting of the incident, a Bell County Sheriff’s Department spokesman told Land Line that Ruiz was working as a driver instructor for Werner Enterprises. An argument between the instructor and driver trainee turned into a fight, and Ruiz was stabbed 17 times by trainee Polk.

Ruiz was airlifted to a hospital but died overnight.

Polk fled the scene on foot but was later apprehended walking on a frontage road near the Holiday Inn in Salado just before 5 a.m. the day after the stabbing. Police said Polk cooperated with authorities upon his arrest.

Several truckers who were at the rest area at the time of the stabbing were called to testify, including Jose Santos, an OOIDA member from Marshall, Wis.

In a phone interview with Land Line, Santos said he was parked three trucks away from Ruiz’s truck on the night of the murder. He said he remembers waking up to a commotion on Aug. 27.

“I woke up and I saw floodlights like a construction zone,” he said. “It was flooded with police. I knew something bad had happened.”

Although Santos was asleep in his bunk during the murder, his Carpa-11 dash cam was recording, capturing Ruiz’s screams for help and the bloody aftermath, as Ruiz staggered from his cab and collapsed in the rest area parking lot. Footage from the dash cam was entered into evidence during the trial.

Seeing the footage in court for the first time since the murder brought Santos to tears.

“I felt helpless,” he said. “Here was a guy screaming for help, and I did not hear that. I slept through the murder.”

While he said he did not know Ruiz when he was alive, Santos said he reached out to other drivers at Werner to find out what kind of man he was. He said the drivers there who knew him all said he was “the nicest guy.”

“Always something nice to say about everybody,” he said.

Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.