A Texas woman is on trial for allegedly orchestrating the execution of her ex-boyfriend’s new love interest—all because she was angry the man had moved on.
Prosecutors say Brenda Delgado hired a hit man to murder 35-year-old Kendra Hatcher and make the slaying look like a robbery gone wrong. Hatcher was fatally shot on the evening of Sept. 2, 2015, inside the parking garage of her Dallas luxury building.
Delgado, 36, is accused of enlisting two people to kill Hatcher, who was a pediatric dentist and had recently begun dating her ex, dermatologist Ricardo “Ricky” Paniagua.
Testimony in Delgado’s case began on Monday, with two witnesses saying they turned down Delgado’s offers for money—and more—to rub out Hatcher.
Jennifer Escobar testified that Delgado, who was studying to be a dental hygienist, was “super obsessed” with Paniagua and “just wanted to eliminate Kendra Hatcher, or even both of them.” Delgado allegedly offered her drugs, a car, and $2,000 to kill Hatcher.
But Delgado did apparently find some takers for her disturbing plan.
Crystal Cortes, 25, was arrested days after the shooting and told investigators she received $500 for driving the hitman, Kristopher Love, to the garage of Hatcher’s high-rise before the victim got home from work.
Cops caught up with Love, 35, one month later. The contract killer faced a jury last October and was sentenced to death for gunning down Hatcher, while Cortes pleaded guilty to murder and agreed to testify against Love in exchange for 35 years behind bars.
“Probably two weeks after I met Brenda, we started planning this murder,” Cortes testified last year, according to WFAA, an ABC affiliate in Dallas.
Delgado, who became one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives, was arrested in Mexico about seven months after Hatcher’s murder.
The shooting took place the night before Hatcher and Paniagua were planning to vacation in Cancun. According to the Dallas Morning News, Delgado “was boiling with jealousy” because Paniagua had just taken Hatcher to San Francisco to meet his parents.
“The evidence is going to show you that Brenda Delgado engaged in a pattern of trying to recruit people to help her harm either Dr. Paniagua or Dr. Hatcher,” Dallas County prosecutor Kevin Brooks said in opening statements.
Delgado allegedly tried to recruit her cousin, and a former coworker, into her murder plot before landing on Cortes and Love, who agreed to kill Hatcher for money and drugs.
“Brenda Delgado for some reason was able to convince [Love] that she was part of the Mexican cartel and that if he committed this offense, he would have a lifetime supply of drugs and money,” Brooks told jurors.
Defense lawyer George Milner pointed the blame at the accomplices, saying Cortes “got the deal of the century.”
“They will say that Brenda Delgado was an obsessed ex-girlfriend. She was. They will say that Brenda Delgado stalked, at times, stalked Dr. Paniagua. She did,” the attorney said in opening remarks. The jilted lover cyberstalked and made statements about wanting to hurt or kill her ex and Hatcher, the lawyer conceded.
“No one ever thought anything of this at all. These people didn’t call police …. until Dr. Hatcher ended up dead,” Milner said, adding, “This led to gut feelings. This led to hunches.”
“The funny thing about a gut feeling is, once you get a gut feeling, the only evidence you see is what reinforces that gut feeling,” Milner added. “Your job as jurors is not to be drawn into that.”
On Monday, jurors first heard testimony from the victim’s mother, Bonnie Jameson, who said Hatcher had planned to bring Paniagua home to Illinois to meet her family. Jameson remembers questioning their three-month romance, asking, “Kendra, are you sure about this?”
“And she said, ‘Yeah, I’m bringing him home. I’ve already bought the plane tickets on Sept. 28,’” Jameson testified. “September was Kendra’s favorite time of the year, the fall festivals and stuff in a small town. And so she wanted all of us to get together and show Ricky what a small town was like.”
Jameson recounted the night she learned about what happened to Hatcher. She woke to her son-in-law at the door. “Something has happened,” he told her.
“Mom, it’s Kendra,” her daughter told her.
“I’m like, ‘What? Kendra? What do you mean Kendra?’ Jameson testified through tears. “She said, ‘Mom, she’s been shot’ …. And then she said that she didn’t make it. And it’s been 3.5 years of hell ever since.”
Delgado’s cousin, Moses Martinez, testified that she offered him money to “scare” Hatcher by hitting her with a baseball bat but he refused.
Martinez recalled Delgado had been “depressed” and “didn’t look like Brenda.” She mentioned feeling sad about her breakup, Martinez testified.
Meanwhile, Escobar testified that Delgado was angered by Paniagua supposedly breaking up with her over email, and that she was tracking Paniagua’s every move using cellphones.
Paniagua also took the stand on Monday. The dermatologist told jurors that he dated Delgado for about 2.5 years until they split in July 2014; the couple got back together briefly and broke up again in February 2015.
Still, Paniagua would often run into his ex over the next few months, often on the Katy Trail in Dallas, according to one WFAA reporter.
“At the time I thought it was just coincidence,” Paniagua testified.