by Byron "Putt" Riddle
A lot of angusih and expense was saved last Friday when Noel Darwin Hernandez pled guilty to charges of attempted capital murder, aggravated kidnapping and three counts of aggravated sexual assault on a woman from Tehuacana before 77th District Court Judge Dick Black. The plea agreement brought to an end the trial that was supposed to have started in Freestone County Monday morning. Black sentenced Hernandez to five life sentences to be served concurrently and a $10,000.00 fine on each count.
The plea agreement allowed a charge of aggravated robbery to be dropped and for Hernandez to not be sent to prison for 30 days so that his family can see him.
The agreement followed a Thursday discussion between Limestone County Attorney Roy DeFriend and Angel Gavito, Hernandez's attorney. Co-counsel for the defense Stan Schweiger said that Hernandez would be eligible for parole in 30 years. Hernandez, a Honduran native was in the country illegally at the time of his offenses amd subsequent arrest. If he is granted parole, he will be deported.
Previously Javier Guzman Martinez who commited the felonies with Hernandez pled guilty in May to attempted capital murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery and two counts of aggravated sexual assault. The illegal immigrant from Mexico received six life sentences anda $10,000.00 fine for his participation in the crimes on June 14, 2007. He too is subject to being deported if he ever receives parole 30 years or later from now.
Having both men receive life sentences brings a small amount of closure to the victim and her family over the horrific experience. Once a plea bargain is reached, the defendants cannot appeal.
So the victim and her family are spared the chance of there ever being a trial in which she might have to testify.
A family spokesman said, " We have appreciated all the prayers, thoughts and concerns we've received from everyone during this ordeal. We couldn't have gone through this without the help of everyone in law enforcement. We especially want to thank Roy DeFriend and Lisa Tanner for leading the way in getting this matter settled."
DeFriend was pleased with the sentences as the defendants didn't commit a crime which qualified them for the death penalty. He stated, " This was a planned, deliberate attack on an innocent young woman. The entire county was was impacted by this cowardly, sadistic, heinous crime. These sentences reflect that it is important to establish a standard and send a message to those who would think of committing these acts in our community; it is taken seriously and law enforcement will come after you."
He went on to mention all the agencies and individuals alluded to by the family spokesperson who helped with the case."The rapid response by the Limestone County Sheriff's Department to the scene and getting the out to the community helped to bring about a quick end to the case. The help of concerned citizens of our county proved invaluable in this case." The Mexia Police Department assisted in the investigation. He cited that,"As being an excellent example of our law enforcement agencies working together to take dangerous individuals off the streets."
Helping him in the prosecution was Assistant County Attorney K.C. Odom and Tanner, an Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Law Enforcement Division. He also thanked the following agencies for assisting in the investigation/prosecution: Mexia Fire Department, Texas Department of Public Safety-Highway Patrol and Texas Rangers, DPS Crime Labs of Waco and Austin, the Attorney General's office, the US Marshals office, Coolidge first responders, Scott and White Hospital and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
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