Can Accused Killer Seth Winder Stay Sane Long Enough to Stand Trial?

For the friends and family of Richard Hernandez, justice seemed imminent -- until his accused killer's medically induced competence slipped away.

By his 38th birthday, Richard Hernandez had worked at the Walmart on Marsh Lane for a decade. Most recently he was the UPC clerk, charged with maintaining the barcode and adjusting for the daily mark-ups and mark-downs. He rarely missed a day of work and he never took vacations.

The job paid the bills, but Hernandez lived paycheck to paycheck, with little left over by the time the next check hit. His co-workers occasionally had to spot him a few bucks for lunch or buy him a couple of margaritas when they all walked across the street to the bar. They gave him rides from time to time, too, since Hernandez didn't own a car. He lived only two miles away, in a cluttered, 400-square-foot apartment just off the George Bush Turnpike.

Outside the store, Hernandez lived a solitary life. It was no secret he was gay, but he was intensely private. He rarely if ever discussed his love life. He hadn't been in a relationship since he moved to Dallas, says Rudy Arraiza, his friend of more than 20 years, and he eschewed labels — although he did sometimes hook up with men he met in the bars and clubs along Cedar Springs Road.

"For the most part, he was a loner," Arraiza says. "He didn't want a partner in his life. He didn't want the drama."

But he found at least one of the two in Seth Winder. The two worked together at Walmart, and during Winder's last stop before homelessness, he had lived in Hernandez's building. Sometime around September 2008, Winder started staying with Hernandez. Little is known about their relationship, except that it wasn't platonic. Hernandez took photos of Winder in the nude. He also shot video of him showering, and of himself performing sexual acts on Winder. "If Rich was taking pictures of Seth in the nude, they could have been friends with benefits," Arraiza says.

But it wasn't just Winder. Hernandez often brought men back to his apartment and filmed them. Later, Winder's attorney, Derek Adame, would argue that Hernandez was paying Winder for sexual favors. Arraiza says he doesn't know whether he was HIV-positve, but Winder was. And he was almost certainly desperate for money and shelter from the late-summer heat.

Whatever their relationship, on September 4, 2008, a neighbor who lived in the apartment below Hernandez's heard a series of loud thuds at three or four in the morning. It sounded like someone was moving furniture.


At around 7 that morning, a car pulled up and idled in front of the complex. A co-worker, there to give Hernandez a lift to work, called his cellphone. She got no answer. She waited five minutes and pulled away. It wasn't like Hernandez not to call in, but his co-workers suspected he might have gone out and had a few too many. The day before was payday, after all. But as the day wore on, it was strange that he didn't return any of their calls. His cellphone, a colleague said, was his lifeline.

Their worry sharpened when he didn't show up the next day. A coworker sent her husband to his apartment. He knocked on his door but got no response. He stepped into the leasing office and asked the assistant property manager to look in on him. She sent a maintenance man, who unlocked the door and walked inside. He didn't turn on any lights, but he did notice a stain on the carpet that he thought looked like Georgia red clay. Nevertheless, he returned to the office and reported that no one was home.

Hernandez's colleagues weren't satisfied. They called Dallas Police and requested a welfare check, and at around 9:30 that morning, a patrol officer strode up to the apartment with the maintenance man, who now confided that he had seen some blood. For Officer David Ruiz, this was his first call of the day, and as he stepped inside he was overwhelmed by a pungent, musty odor.

"There was not just a little bit of blood like he said. There was blood everywhere," he would later testify. "It was like a Stephen King movie."

Ruiz conducted a brief search of the apartment and called his supervisor. When the supervisor arrived, he took one look at the apartment and said, "Oh shit! Call the CAPers (Crimes Against Persons)."

Homicide detectives moved through the apartment, with a crew shooting for The First 48 in tow. They saw a dark stain the size of a basketball on the carpet in the center of the living room, partially covered with a striped bathmat. A crooked lampshade near the door was splotched and smeared with blood. Along one wall, the narrow drag marks of bloody shoulders and elbows showed darkly on the white paint. Spread across the ceiling were collections of fine droplets arrayed in elongated slashes — the cast-off blood from an edged weapon. Drag marks on the carpet led into the bathroom, where police found a scattering of gelatinous yellow globules in the bathtub.

They found a trail of blood leading down the stairs, through the breezeway and along a sun-dappled sidewalk that took them past the sliding glass doors of other tenants' patios and grills. They arrived at a pair of empty green dumpsters. The trash had been picked up the day before. In a few hours they would learn that some 2,000 tons had been dumped at the landfill since then.

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11 comments
What the?
What the?

I may have read this wrong, but does anyone know why the maintenance man would have entered the apartment one day and claimed only to see a little red dirt on the carpet. Then the next day when confronted by the police he admitted seeing some blood in what the officer described as like a Stephen King movie?

thejman7
thejman7

Wow. Too bad Law & Order isn't on anymore as I would have loved to see how they handled this scenario.

Cindy
Cindy

Such a sad example of our flawed mental health and justice system. He was insane when he committed the murder but can't remember it but if he can stay medicated he can be prosecuted and sent to prison where he will have no mental health care. Where is there any justice here?

Rodster
Rodster

The book: Slipping into Madness -The Seth Winder Story is available online at Amazon.com and other online bookstores.

VivlianWozz
VivlianWozz

I am a 27 years old doctor,mature and beautiful. and now i am seeking a good man who can give me real love, so i got a sername Andromeda2002 on Agedate.СòM, a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men, to interact with each other.Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends.

Silvermoondog1
Silvermoondog1

I beg to differ with Derek Adame, the book didn't cause the trial delays. The proesecution wasn't ready, they delayed it over and over again after May of 2010.

bongkongcory
bongkongcory

@What the? I was the maintenance man that was interviewed by the homicide detectives in the first 48 " the guy with no shirt " I wanna say none of us were ever let in to the apt until the detectives asked for the victim's apt key I then was asked to get it & walk them to the apt but was not let in! They took the keys and opened the door saying he could still be in there. As they went in the apt I stood on the other side of the breezeway . There was alot that was not covered in the episode but being as the show was an hour long they put in enough for the common person just watching the show to know. All I remember was the small smeared bloody hand print on the corner of the window you could see from outside. We never saw the unit until it was aired on tv.... Poor guys! Both of them!!

My prayers go out to both sides of the family! May they find peace!!

Cindyray2012
Cindyray2012

How gross of you to try and capitalize on your son's insanity!!!!

 
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