Jury Sends Naiya Villegas's Killer Isidro Delacruz Straight to Death Row
SAN ANGELO, TX — Jurors in Isidro Delacruz’s capital murder trial deliberated for nine hours before unanimously sentencing the 27-year-old to the death penalty shortly before 8 p.m. Tuesday evening for slashing the throat of 5-year-old Naiya Villegas, killing her, on Sept. 2, 2014.
Delacruz stood while District Judge Ben Woodward read the jury’s verdict. Jurors were charged with two special issues; first, was Delacruz a continuing threat to society and second, did he have personal moral culpability for the death of Naiya Villegas. Judge Woodward read the jury’s verdict which found unanimously that Delacruz was a continuing threat to society and they he was morally culpable for Naiya’s death.
Then Woodward asked lead defense attorney Rob Cowie if there was any reason he shouldn’t pronounce sentence. Cowie stood up and said, “No, your honor.” Woodward then read the verdict. The jury said ‘yes’ unanimously to the first special issue finding that Delacruz was a continuing threat to society. The jury unanimously said ’no’ to the second special issue which asked if Delcruz was not personally morally culpable for Naiya’s death.
The Jury’s instructions said if they found ‘yes’ on the first issue and ‘no’ on the second issue, the sentence was death.
Defense attorney Cowie asked Judge Woodward to poll the jurors individually if that was their verdict. Woodward called each juror by their first name and all 12 answered yes.
Judge Woodward then released the jury to the jury room. He asked Isidro Delacruz to stand and he did flanked by his attorneys. Woodward said that since the jury answered yes to the first issue and no to the second issue, the sentence was death.
Isidro Delacruz turned to his defense team and kind of grinned, and hugged them one by one. There were six members of the regional indigent capital defense team present in the courtroom.
The day began with Judge Woodard reading the charge or instructions to the jury followed by closing arguments from the prosecution followed by the defense and closing by prosecutors.
District Attorney Allison Palmer’s opening statement was brief. She basically went over the jury’s charge and urged jurors to consider all the evidence.
Then defense attorney Will Boyles addressed the jury. Boyles said, “This is it. This is scary.” He told jurors this worries the defense team because the death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst and Delacruz is not that.
Boyles said Naiya didn’t deserve to die, but we are here about Isidro. He asked jurors, “Does Isidro deserve to die?”
Then lead defense attorney Rob Cowie addressed the jury. Cowie basically told jurors that Delacruz was not a good inmate in jail. He had shanks, but he didn’t use them. He damaged property, but he wasn’t violent toward other people. Cowie said there was an escape attempt and Delacruz had contraband and shanks in his cell, but so did other inmates.
Then he turned to the night Naiya was killed. Cowie told jurors Delacruz and Tanya Bermea fought frequently, but they always got back together.
Cowie went through Delacruz’s criminal acts including breaking out $40,000 worth of windows in downtown San Angelo, violating parole, using drugs. Cowie said he was a rule breaker, but not a threat to society. Cowie asked the jury for mercy. He urged jurors to choose life.
Cowie told jurors Delacruz had low functioning intelligence, he had a speech impediment as a child, he struggled to read and he was unequipped to process emotions properly. Cowie stressed that Delacruz was introduced to alcohol and addiction at an early age by his family and he failed rehab attempts because he went back to the same environment.
Cowie went on to tell jurors that Delacruz was suffering from the effects of alcohol the night he killed Naiya and he was remorseful. He told jurors again that Delacruz experienced the perfect storm that night.
Then Cowie showed jurors a photo of Delacruz as a little boy. Delacruz cried and two jurors also cried; his brother Lorenzo cried as Cowie described Isidro as the one who had the learning disability and Lorenzo was normal.
Then came this; Cowie told jurors, “You already sentenced Isidro to die in prison. I’m confident at least one of you will grant Isidro mercy.”
Cowie closed his remarks and it was then 51st DA Palmer’s chance.
Palmer told jurors the reason we are all here is because Isidro Delacruz decided whether someone else should live or die. Palmer told jurors Naiya will never have the family photos and opportunities Delacruz had.
Palmer told jurors Naiya cried out for Mercy and didn’t get it.
She then went through Delacruz’ criminal history, noting he didn’t graduate from Lake View High School until he was 20-years-old. Palmer called Delacruz rehab proof, he was antisocial and that rules didn’t apply to him. He never took personal responsibility for his actions and he was prone to over-reacting.
Palmer told jurors that Delacruz and Tanya Bermea argued that night and it was Delacruz who brought Naiya into the mix. Palmer told jurors that Delacruz knew that the worst way to hurt Tanya was to hurt Naiya.
Palmer then listed Delacruz’s violations while he was in custody in the Tom Green County Jail. She reminded jurors that Delacruz had shanks, hooch, and had attempted escape.
The state and defense rested and closed at 10:32 a.m.
At 12:55 p.m. today, jurors asked to see police in-car videos of the crime scene, Facebook pages, and the physical shanks found in Delacruz’s cell. They were given those items.
Jurors communicated that they had reached a verdict at 7:37 p.m. They were seated at 7:55 p.m. and gave the verdict to Judge Woodward.
Woodard told Delacruz his case was automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal state court in Texas. He also informed Delacruz that he had appointed Hilary Sheard as his appellant attorney. Sheard will work with Delacruz’s current court-appointed attorneys to begin the mandatory appeal of his capital murder conviction.
Sheard is a capital murder appellant qualified indigent defense attorney.
Delacruz was taken back to the Tom Green County jail to wait for transfer to Death Row, which is in the Allan B. Polunsky prison in Livingston, Texas.