After hearing three days of witnesses and arguments, a Dallas County jury took less than four hours to sentence a Dallas man to death for shooting a dentist in the head as part of a plot allegedly conceived by the dentist's boyfriend's jilted former girlfriend.
Brenda Delgado allegedly paid Kristopher Love, 34, in drugs and cash to shoot Kendra Hatcher. With help from Crystal Cortes, the admitted getaway driver in the case, Love tracked Hatcher for weeks, eventually shooting her in the head as she walked through the parking garage of her Uptown apartment complex on Sept. 2, 2015. Love's defense team argued that he'd merely robbed Hatcher and that Cortes fired the fatal shots.
Soon after Hatcher's death, police began investigating whether Delgado had hired someone to kill the dentist. She'd previously dated Hatcher's boyfriend, Ricardo Paniagua, and was jealous of the couple's new relationship.
Delgado's rage, according to police documents, boiled over when she learned that her ex-boyfriend had taken Hatcher to meet his parents in San Francisco, something he'd not done with Delgado. She lent Cortes a Jeep, police say, and Cortes drove Love to Hatcher's garage.
In October, Cortes agreed to testify against Love and Delgado in exchange for a 35-year sentence. At trial, she said that she, Love and Delgado took turns following Hatcher for two weeks before the murder.
In Texas, one of the things a jury is required to consider when deciding whether someone deserves the death penalty is whether the person would pose a continued threat to society. Dallas County prosecutors argued that Love's fellow prisoners would not be safe if he wasn't isolated.
"If you put this man in gen pop, he becomes the go-to guy if you want something done," prosecutor Kevin Brooks said of Love, according to reporters in the courtroom.
Brooks' fellow prosecutor, Glen Fitzmartin, said during closing arguments that Love deserved to go through what he'd put Hatcher through.
“He’s the worst of the worst criminals. This was not a mistake. It was a choice of execution.” Fitzmartin told jurors. “Kendra knew that she was going to die that day and he needs to feel that too. That he is going to die.”
Hatcher's mother refused to mention Love's name during her statement after the verdict.
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"For three years you've only been known as the shooter. I will never call you by your name because you are just the shooter," Bonnie Jameson said. "You executed my daughter."
Love is the first person sentenced to death in Dallas County since 2013. (Franklin Davis, the last person sent to death row from the county, was one of three local men sentenced to die that year. Davis was convicted of murdering a 16-year-old girl who had accused him of rape.) November's district attorney election could determine how long it is before another person faces the same fate. John Creuzot, the Democratic nominee, has said that he believes the death penalty has been misapplied in Dallas County and should be sought only in rare instances.
"My personal view of the death penalty is it has not been shown to prevent another killing, it has serious racial inequities, there are social and financial inequities in its implementation, and it is being slowly phased out in the United States," Creuzot told The Dallas Morning News for its voter guide. "In Dallas County, I think the death penalty has [been] sought in cases where the facts did not justify the sought-after penalty. The death penalty should be reserved for the most serious murders where there is ample evidence that the person will commit future acts of violence, whether in the penitentiary or in the outside world."
A trial date for Delgado, the alleged mastermind of the plot, has not been set. She will not face the death penalty because of the United States' extradition agreement with Mexico, the country to which she fled as police investigated the murder.