Prosecution Rests with Delacruz Having Shanks and a Possible Escape Route in Jail
SAN ANGELO, TX -- District Attorney Allison Palmer closed the state’s case against convicted child killer Isidro Delacruz Wednesday by showing jurors he had access to an escape route and was caught with prison knives or shanks in his cell almost two years after cutting 5-year-old Naiya Villegas’s throat with a knife.
Palmer called no less than ten jailers and corrections officers to the witness stand who testified that Delacruz was written up dozens of times for having contraband in his cell including shanks with the final witness for the state, jail investigator Sgt. Orlando Juarez, testifying that Delacruz had access to a pipe chase, or opening between floors where water and sewer pipes were routed. The jury saw photographs of the pipe chase next the common shower for the two cells in ‘I’ block. The pipe chase had a metal door about four feet by four feet that covered a hole in the wall where a sink used to be.
The metal door was damaged and deteriorated to the point that the frame could be pulled away from the wall giving inmates in that cell block access to the chimney like pipe chase. An inmate told corrections officers about the pipe chase and they began an investigation according to Juarez. They found that the door could be pulled away from the wall and when investigators examined it they found a homemade pouch made from a jail blanket and sewn with string with a wooden button closure.
The pouch contained several pieces of metal shaped into knives and hooks. Prosecutors argued that since Delacruz was in one of the two cells in that block and was allowed to shower in the stall next to the pipe chase, he had access to it and the pouch. Further investigation showed a person could climb up the pipe chase to the space between the second and third floors. That’s where a footprint was found in the dust according to earlier testimony.
Investigators called that pipe chase a “major security breach” that was common knowledge passed from inmate to inmate. Delacruz had access to that pipe chase and the information that it was there.
Testimony began Wednesday morning without explanation of why Judge Ben Woodward suspended trial proceedings for all of Tuesday.
First on the stand was Tom Green County Sheriff’s Deputy Jesus Tellez who testified Delacruz had a “jail-made shank” from a broken hair brush along with many other pieces of contraband on Nov. 4, 2014.
Next up was TGCSO corrections officer Randy Bannert who wrote up Delacruz on Sept. 30, 2017 for having two razor blades and a contraband pen.
Then TGCSO jailer Jeffery McCartney told jurors he found Delacruz with a long metal pipe, pieces of glass, a black tar looking substance, the lense out of a pair of glasses, and other metal pieces all of which were prohibited.
Then Palmer called Hervey Solis, a jailer who testified he found a mess in a common area and wrote up Delacruz and another inmate for that infraction of the rules.
TGCSO jailer Jonathan Montana took the stand and told jurors he collected Delacruz’s razor on Feb. 3, 2017 and it was broken, so he wrote the inmate up.
Next was Lieutenant Amy Leleux, who reviewed a video of Delacruz ‘fishing’ with his towel through his cell door trying to retrieve a TV remote the video showed him pushing out of the slot in his cell door.
Number seven on the witness stand for the prosecution Wednesday was Taylor Robertson. Robertson was a jail investigator in 2016 when he found Delacruz in possession of a TV remote when he was restricted not to have the remote.
Robertson also wrote up Delacruz up on Dec. 2, 2016 for pushing the emergency button over and over again because the inmate wanted a new phone brought to his cell for visitation.
On April 7, 2017 Robertson wrote up Delacruz for damaging the phone cord for the video kiosk for video visitation.
On March 22, 2018, just last month, Robertson said another inmate reported Delacruz had a shank. He searched Delacruz’s cell but didn’t find a shank; however, he found several other pieces of contraband including a straightened paper clip, buttons off a shirt, a braided rope made out of strips of bed sheet, two black socks from court clothing and a string attached to the light fixture in his cell.
Next on the stand was jail investigator Sgt. Vanessa Flores who described finding the pipe chase on March 1, 2016. Flores found the pouch with the hand made tools in it in the pipe chase. She was investigating with the next officer to take the stand, Sgt. Adam Cooper. Cooper testified that he entered the pipe chase and climbed up it to the crawl space between floors and took pictures. He told jurors he found insulation torn away from air conditioning ducts and followed the crawl space to where he could look down by light fixtures and air conditioning ducts and see into the medical offices and the medical area bathroom.
The state’s last witness was Sgt. Juarez who searched Delacruz’s room on March 10, 2016 after the pipe chase was found. Juarez testified that he took Delacruz’s mattress and opened it because he suspected the inmate had contraband. Juarez said he could tell some of the stitching on one end of the mattress had been crudely resewn. He cut the mattress open and found the three shanks, part of a reciprocating saw blade, wooden sticks, part of a shower curtain and parts of a brown paper bag.
Juarez retrieved the evidence envelope and showed the shanks and other objects to the jury.
With that, D.A. Palmer told Judge Ben Woodward, “Judge, the State Rests.” That was at 2:20 p.m.; at 2: 34 p.m. Will Boyles began the defense’s case in the punishment phase of Isidro Delacruz’s capital murder trial.
The pleasant and polite Boyles first called Delacruz’s childhood friend Tyler Cooper to the stand. Cooper said he was nervous. He testified that Delacruz “stuck up for me,” in junior high school at Lincoln Jr. High in north San Angelo.
Cooper told jurors he and Delacruz became friends and they went skate boarded together. Cooper was present when Delacruz was arrested for marijuana possession at the skate park on River Drive. Cooper testified that he didn’t smoke marijuana and had no criminal record.
Next up for the defense was Crystal Bingham who worked with Delacruz at Cheddars Restaurant in San Angelo. She told jurors she met Delacruz when he was an inmate at the Roy K. Robb substance abuse treatment facility. She said they got a lot of workers from that program. Bingham testified that she became friends with Delacruz and that he was a good employee while he was in the treatment program. Under cross examination by DA Palmer, Bingham testified that Delacruz had to be good while he was in the program and was able to do whatever he wanted to do after he completed the treatment program.
Bingham testified that Delacruz was fired from Cheddars over marijuana possession and that he argued with Tanya Bermea, his girlfriend and mother of the victim.
The defense’s final witness was a blockbuster. Rob Cowie called Dr. Matthew Mendel to the stand. Mendel is a North Carolina psychologist who studied all the documentation of Isidro Delacruz, his family history, his educational records, jail records, CPS records and records of his time in juvenile detention. Mendel also interviewed Delacruz for nine hours over two days in Nov. 2017.
Before Dr. Mendel was allowed to testify before the jury, he first had to be qualified as an expert witness. That process took about 45 minutes of questioning before attorneys and the judge. DA Palmer grilled Mendel about his qualifications and what he was going to tell the jury.
Defense attorneys called Dr. Mendel to show that Isidro Delacruz had a violent and abusive childhood which led to his actions as an adult.
Mendel testified that Delacruz was sexually abused one time by the boyfriend of an aunt when he was four years old. Mendel also told jurors Delacruz was beaten by his mother and thrown against a wall when he was 19 months old. That incident led to Isidro and his two brothers being taken by Child Protective Services from his parents and placed in foster homes for six months.
Isidro Delacruz was crying while he sat next to his attorneys listening to testimony about his childhood.
Dr. Mendel told jurors Isidro Delacruz’s mother’s family had a pattern of abuse from generation to generation. He said his investigation found that Isidro’s grandmother was physically abusive to his mother and actually sold her for sex when she was 15.
Under cross examination, Mendel admitted that Delacruz had an average IQ, although it was on the low end of the scale, but he was not intellectually disabled.
Dr. Mendel’s testimony lasted until 5:48 p.m. on Wednesday.
Judge Woodward instructed jurors to be back in the courthouse at 8:45 a.m. Thursday morning when defense attorneys would continue presenting evidence and testimony. The trial is expected to continue into next week.
Delacruz faces either life in prison without parole of death by lethal injection.