SAN ANGELO, Texas — In the end, the photographs of a smiling 5-year-old girl juxtaposed with a menacing-looking Isidro Delacruz — staring straight into the camera on the night of the child’s murder — might have helped jurors decide Delacruz needed to die.
A Tom Green County jury sentenced Delacruz, 27, to death late Tuesday in the slaying of 5-year-old Naiya Villegas after more than three years of trial delays.
The jury of eight women and four men went into deliberation at 10:30 a.m. to answer the special issues questions that resulted in the death penalty on the fifth week of trial.
Delacruz appeared emotionless when 119th District Judge Ben Woodward read the sentence in the courtroom, with relatives of both families present alongside half a dozen Tom Green County Sheriff’s deputies.
Delacruz grinned when staff on the defense team patted his shoulders as he walked out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
Family members had been meandering in and out of the courtroom throughout the day as they waited for the jury to make a determination.
The same jury found Delacruz guilty of capital murder last month in the child’s death. Naiya died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital after her throat was slit twice in the middle of the night at her mother’s home in the 2700 block of Houston Street on Sept. 2, 2014.
Delacruz’s parents declined to comment Tuesday evening as family members hugged each other outside of the courthouse. Members of Naiya’s family said they are thankful justice was served, adding they were planning to hold a vigil on the courthouse lawn when the case concludes.
“In the ultimate betrayal, Naiya’s short life was brutally, maliciously ended,” 51st District Attorney Alison Palmer said in a statement after the sentencing. “No family should have to endure the loss of a child, especially in these circumstances, at the hands of one who professed to love her.