Isidro Delacruz gets death penalty in Naiya Villegas murder

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.

“To the family of Naiya Villegas, you have my deepest sympathies. I hope this resolution brings them some measure of closure, and that they will remember the beauty of Naiya and know that she has found justice.”

Delacruz’s defense team declined to comment.

 Attorneys took less than an hour each to argue their case Tuesday morning. Court-appointed attorneys Robert R. Cowie and William P.H. Boyles said Delacruz experienced personality disorders, learning disabilities and physical abuse during his upbringing, which affected him in adulthood. The defense told jurors life imprisonment is itself a death sentence in prison.

Palmer said Delacruz has proven he is incapable of accepting responsibility for his actions and can’t follow rules. She argued a sketchy work history, drinking while on probation, numerous run-ins with the law and destructive conduct such as making shanks while he was awaiting trial in the Tom Green County Jail were all examples of impetuous behavior.

The punishment phase of trial had two delays when it began this month. Woodward halted trial for several days the first week of April because an official gave prosecutors new school records on Delacruz.

Defense attorneys immediately filed for a mistrial and a sixth continuance based on the receipt of the additional school files, but Woodward ultimately turned down their motions. Woodward also delayed proceedings for a day last week for undisclosed reasons.

About 100 witnesses were called to testify, including the child’s mother, Delacruz’s ex-girlfriend, who broke down and nearly collapsed in the courtroom when she saw a picture of Delacruz’s bloody hand print inside her house.

Trial began in January when some 350 San Angelo residents reported to the McNease Convention Center for jury duty.

“It was common to hear prospective jurors say they did not want to serve on this jury, but they would because it is their responsibility as a citizen,” Palmer said. “Many said they knew the case would be difficult, but if their friends or family were involved as a victim or defendant, they would want responsible citizens on a jury to hear the case. I am humbled by this sense of civic duty and community.”

Twelve jurors and two alternates were eventually impaneled after more than seven weeks of tedious individual examination by attorneys.

“I thank all of the venirepersons who took time for jury selection, and I thank the 14 who so diligently served on this jury,” Palmer said. “They have my deepest respect.”

This was the first time Palmer had prosecuted a capital case seeking the death penalty that had gone to trial.

The last death penalty trial regarding a Tom Green County murder took place in May 1999, when a jury sent Luis Ramirez to death row when he hired a hit man who shot and killed fireman Nemecio Nandin because Nandin was having a relationship with Ramirez’s ex-wife.

Delacruz’s case will automatically be filed for appeal.

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Isidro Delacruz found guilty of capital murder in death of Naiya Villegas

SAN ANGELO, Texas — A Tom Green County Jury found Isidro Miguel Delacruz guilty of capital murder in the 2014 death of 5-year-old Naiya Villegas.

The jury of eight women and four men returned the verdict after about four hours of deliberation Thursday in the second week of trial.

Delacruz, 27, nodded his head following the reading of the verdict by 119th District Judge Ben Woodward.

He is convicted of slitting the throat of his ex-girlfriend’s daughter in the 2700 block of Houston Street on Sept. 2, 2014.

The sentencing phase of the trial begins Monday. Delacruz faces death or life imprisonment.

Attorneys took about two hours to lay out their case of what happened the night Naiya was murdered.

“The question here is who did what, and that’s tough to tell,” said court-appointed attorney Robert R. Cowie from the Lubbock Regional Public Defender for Capital Case. “This was a dark scene with a couple of drunk adults who got into a fight in a dark room.”

51st District Attorney Allison Palmer told jurors during closing arguments that “adult ugliness” led to Naiya’s death.


“The horrible images you’ve had to see of her,” Palmer said, showing a photo of a smiling Naiya standing next to a friend, “just remember she wasn’t always the way you had to see her.”

The afternoon before Naiya died, Facebook messages exchanged between Delacruz and his then-girlfriend, Tanya Bermea, showed communication was amicable between the two, who had dated for about three years.

Delacruz then became irate with Bermea, 37, when conflict arose over the course of the evening.

An acquaintance of Delacruz and Bermea testified he ran into Delacruz when he went drinking with coworkers at a bar near Angelo State University that night.

The witness said Delacruz borrowed his cellphone and made phone calls. Phone records show Bermea called the witness’ phone about 20 times.

The bar’s surveillance footage showed Delacruz had been drinking about midnight before he showed up at Bermea’s residence.

The witness said he offered Delacruz a ride about 1:49 a.m. and dropped him off at a spot on Arden Road. Delacruz then walked to Bermea’s residence about 2 a.m.


Bermea testified she had tried to barricade the residence because she was afraid Delacruz was going to come over.

“At that point, if she knew something bad was going to happen, she had options,” Cowie said.

Those options included calling the police or staying with relatives, but Bermea instead abandoned her daughter in that house, Cowie said.

“I heard a thump on the wall” coming from the bathroom, Bermea said, and she saw Delacruz break into the home through the window before she immediately ran out of the house.

Palmer argued Delacruz slashed the back of his left arm when he climbed into Bermea’s residence through the broken bathroom window.

Crime scene photos showed Delacruz’s blood dripping on the outside of the window and his blood smears on the window frame.

“How did his blood drip on the outside of that window if he hadn’t already been bleeding?” Palmer told jurors.

Bermea said she left Naiya sleeping at home because she believed Delacruz wouldn’t hurt the child, adding she thought Delacruz was only coming after her. She testified Delacruz had never harmed the child before.

Crime scene photos showed Delacruz’s blood in nearly every room in the house, including Bermea’s closet.

“He was looking for (Bermea),” Palmer said. “He was looking for her all around the house but he couldn’t find her.”

Delacruz’s bloody handprints were on light switches, indicating he turned on the lights because the house was dark.

“He was trying to find if she’s hiding,” Palmer said. “He was coming after her.”

Cowie argued Bermea didn’t immediately leave the house but stayed and tried to fight Delacruz instead.

“Tanya wasn’t a passive participant in the case,” Cowie said. “She stayed in the house that night, and she made more phone calls.”

Phone records showed Bermea made numerous phone calls at 2:19 a.m.

Video footage from a nearby business showed Bermea looking over her shoulder, walking barefoot and without her prescription glasses down Houston Street toward North Garfield Street from her house at 2:24 a.m.

Delacruz appeared on camera running down the path Bermea went about a minute and a half later.

“He’s chasing her down the street” when he couldn’t find her, said Palmer.

The child’s grandmother, Jesusita Bermea, drove her daughter back to the residence moments later. Palmer said Delacruz ran back as well and assaulted both women.

Palmer believes Delacruz beat up the women before going into the house and taking his anger out on Naiya.

Bermea testified she never set foot inside the home again until a week later.

“I wonder why she didn’t get back in the house?” Palmer asked jurors while displaying photos of Bermea’s injuries. “It’s hard to when you’re getting whooped on.

“She had other priorities,” Palmer said. “Not getting beat up.”

Bermea had a black left eye, bruising on her arm, abrasions on her face and two knots protruding from her forehead.


Delacruz’s injuries included a severe cut on the back of his left arm. His left hand was swollen and some of his knuckles had cuts on them and were bleeding.

The grandmother eventually called 911 at 2:30 a.m.

Palmer believes the incident started at the child’s pillow and moved to the other side of the bed because the girl fought back.

“In her bed, her blood begins on her pillow,” Palmer argued. “It’s like she fought him.”

Crime scene photos showed a blood-soaked blanket at the foot of the bed.

“I think she gave him a hard time,” Palmer said. “She gave all she had, every bit of blood in her body.”

Paramedics testified the girl wasn’t bleeding anymore when they arrived because she had no more blood to give.

The child’s injuries consisted of two deep lacerations on her neck as well as cuts on her chin, an abrasion and bruising on her left cheek.

DNA found on the large kitchen knife belonged only to Delacruz and Naiya. The child’s DNA was found on the blade and handle of the knife while Delacruz’s was found only on the handle.

Palmer told jurors it was a matter of minutes before he finally inflicted the fatal injuries.

“She did what she could,” Palmer said. “Her DNA was on his pants, shirt, necklace. That’s her telling us something. I’m here on him! She’s telling us I’m here! I’m here on him. I’m telling you this is who did it.”

Delacruz’s blood was found on the child’s clothes, and hers on his. Dozens of blood stains inside the home belonged to Delacruz and the child.

Palmer said Naiya couldn’t have survived her injuries for more than 20 minutes.

The first responding officer arrived at  2:37 a.m.

Screams coming from Bermea, who had remained outside, can be heard on police dashcam video as the officer frantically runs toward the residence and off camera.

Naiya died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.

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