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At age 35, Kendra Hatcher was doing what she loved and had met someone she thought she’d spend the rest of her life with. Tragically, a jealous woman would put an end to her promising future.
A devout Christian who grew up in Pleasant Plains, Illinois, Hatcher studied dentistry in college. She helped build churches abroad, taught Bible study, and performed free dental work for children in Ecuador.
In 2015, Hatcher was living in Dallas and accepted a job at Smile Zone, which offered high-end dentistry to children from disadvantaged households. She also began dating Dr. Ricardo “Ricky” Paniagua that same year. Paniagua was completing a dermatology residency at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
After dating for only three months, Hatcher and Paniagua began talking about marriage. They planned a trip to Cancun for Labor Day 2015. Things were going exceedingly well for Hatcher -- until September 2, 2015.
That day, Hashem Saad was in the parking garage at Gables Park 17, the luxury building Hatcher lived in. “You heard screaming. It was pure fear. And then I heard, ‘Pop! Pop!’" Saad told “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
Saad saw a Jeep Cherokee speeding out of the garage. Once it seemed safe, he got in his car and left.
“As I was going out of the ramp, I could see her body,” Saad told producers.
Saad called 911 and reported the shooting. First responders rushed to the scene but were unable to save the victim, who was subsequently identified as Kendra Hatcher.
Bullet shards and a handgun magazine were found on the ground near Hatcher’s body. Her purse was missing but her cellphone was left behind. Though the murder had the hallmarks of a robbery gone wrong, the manner of the shooting suggested an execution.
“The entry wound came from the upper part of the head and exited through the chin,” former crime scene analyst Abe Santiago told producers. Gunshot residue suggested her hands were up and behind her head at the time she was shot.
Security cameras at Gables Park 17 showed a black Jeep Grand Cherokee arrive at 7:15 p.m. prior to the murder.
“Somewhere around 7:42, the victim, Kendra Hatcher, pulls into the parking garage,” Dallas Police Detective Eric Barnes told “Snapped.” “There was no doubt that that individual was waiting for Dr. Hatcher. As soon as she pulled in, he began making his move.”
The shooter is seen walking toward Hatcher’s car, then returning to the Jeep, which leaves the premises, in footage obtained by "Snapped." The driver, a woman, was caught on camera. Images of the car and driver were released to the media the following day in hopes of identifying them.
Two days later, Jose Luis-Ortiz contacted investigators, saying it was his car on the security camera footage. He insisted he had nothing to do with it and claimed on the day of the murder, he loaned his Jeep to a friend, Brenda Delgado. When the murder occurred, he and Delgado were having dinner together at a Chili’s restaurant.
“He had no involvement. She threatened him with being deported. She offered to pay for his Jeep to get painted a different color,” Barnes told producers.
Delgado was brought in for questioning and asked about the murder of Kendra Hatcher. “I’ve never seen her,” she responded in her videotaped interview, which was obtained by “Snapped.”
When asked about her whereabouts on the night of the murder, Delgado conveniently produced her dinner receipt from Chili’s.
“As soon as I asked about the Jeep, her response was, ‘I gave it to my friend Crystal,'" Barnes told producers.
Crystal Cortes, a 23-year-old single mother, was brought in for questioning and admitted to driving the getaway car on the night of the murder. She claimed she had been with her son when she was forced to drive to the crime scene by an armed carjacker.
Cortes alleged the gunman jumped out of the car and she then heard gunshots. The shooter got back in the car and asked to be driven to another part of Dallas, then ran off.
However, surveillance footage showed her son wasn’t in the vehicle at the time of the shooting, nor did she try to drive away when the gunman left the car. When confronted with these inconsistencies, Cortes changed her story.
Cortes now claimed she willingly drove the gunman, but didn’t know he was going to shoot Hatcher. She claimed it was only supposed to be a robbery.
“He was just going to jack her. That’s it. I don’t know this dude,” Cortes is seen telling detectives in her videotaped interrogation, which was obtained by “Snapped.”
When asked why she aided in the robbery, she claimed it was Delgado’s idea. When asked why Delgado would arrange the robbery of Hatcher, Cortes told detectives, “I think that they were going back and forth between the same guy.”
Detectives learned that Delgado had dated Ricky Paniagua on and off from 2012 until the beginning of 2015. They had lived together for a time and she had even gotten pregnant by him, though she later had an abortion, according to a 2020 Texas Monthly magazine article.
Through social media postings and by hacking Paniagua’s email, Delgado cyberstalked both her ex and his new flame.
Cortes claimed Delgado offered her $500 to steal Hatcher’s purse. On Cortes’ phone, detectives found a photo taken on the day after the murder with $500 in bills folded into the shape of a heart.
“She admitted that Brenda paid her to be the getaway driver so we had enough to arrest her that night for murder. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough evidence to place Brenda in custody so the only thing that I had to work with was an unpaid traffic ticket and we did arrest her for the unpaid traffic ticket,” Barnes told producers.
Cortes said the shooter’s name was Lamar and that he drove a blue Chrysler Sebring and supplied his phone number. While the name was determined to be a fake, the number produced a Dallas address which had a blue Sebring parked out front.
The car belonged to 31-year-old Kristopher Love. On Sept. 30, 2015, Love was arrested on an outstanding warrant from Memphis, Tennessee. Inside his car, authorities found a gun hidden in a side compartment. Ballistics tests revealed it was the weapon used to shoot Kendra Hatcher.
Love told detectives that Delgado said she was connected to Mexico’s infamous drug cartels. She promised to pay him in both drugs and money, Dallas-Fort Worth CBS-affiliate KTVT reported in 2016.
Kristopher Love was arrested and charged with capital murder. In October 2018, he was found guilty and sentenced to death, NBC News reported at the time.
Brenda Delgado made bail on Sept. 5. 2015. Then, she boarded a bus and fled the country. She was put on the FBI’s “10 Most Wanted” list and a $100,000 reward was offered for information leading to her arrest. She was caught in April 2016 in Torreon, Coahuila, according to NBC News. Mexico stipulated that she wouldn’t face the death penalty as part of her extradition agreement.
Crystal Cortes pleaded guilty to murder and agreed to testify against Love and Delgado in exchange for a 35-year prison sentence, Dallas-Fort Worth NBC affiliate KXAS-TV reported in 2019.
"Probably two weeks after I met Brenda, we started planning this murder," Cortes testified at Delgado’s murder trial that year, according to Dallas ABC-affiliate WFAA.
After deliberating for 30 minutes, a jury found Benda Delgado guilty of capital murder on June 7, 2019. Upon her conviction she was automatically sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
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