It was the early morning hours of May 25, 2015 when Georganne Lee heard a commotion and a woman screaming outside her Las Vegas home.
“I’m thinking, ‘Uh oh. She’s being choked or raped, or something’s going on,’” Lee told “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
When she looked out her window, she saw a man lying in a pool of blood and a woman standing over him. Lee called 911, and officers with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department arrived on the scene and found the woman with a bloody hatchet in her hand.
Her name was Maria Hernandez, and the dead man on the ground was her husband, Enrique Hernandez. She told police they had been checking the engine of their minivan when they were attacked by an unknown man, according to Las Vegas NBC affiliate KSNV.
Detectives would later learn it was all a lie.
Enrique grew up in Veracruz, Mexico, where he helped raise his siblings and learned the value of hard work at an early age, according to brother Daniel Hernandez.
“I loved him as a father, even more so than a brother. He always helped guide me,” Daniel told “Snapped.”
The Hernandez family worked on ranches and farms around Mexico, but Enrique dreamed of moving to the U.S. and becoming his own boss. As soon as he was old enough, he traveled across the border for farm work in central California.
In 1997, Enrique met 15-year-old Maria Olga Gutierrez, who was at the job site with her father selling tamales to the field workers. Born and raised in California, Maria was known for her caring spirit. Like Enrique, she came from a large family, but she had a troubled home life. In Enrique, she saw a way out, according to attorneys Scott Coffee and Ryan Bashor.
Despite a 10-year age gap, Enrique and Maria began dating and quickly fell in love. When she was 17, they were married in Mexico and had four children in quick succession, two boys and two girls.
Enrique worked hard to support his family, traveling around the U.S. to follow the different picking seasons. Not only was he supporting his wife and children, but he also sent money back home to his family in Mexico. In 2011, the Hernandez family settled in Burley, Idaho, and Enrique applied for U.S. citizenship.
On May 25, 2015, Memorial Day, the couple was in Las Vegas for the quinceañera of one of his brother’s daughters. That night, they dropped their children off with one of his cousins and went out dancing at a bar on the east side of Las Vegas. Maria would later tell detectives they had a great time and stayed out until 2 a.m.
On the way home, however, they got lost and started experiencing car trouble. They pulled over, and while Enrique looked under the hood, a man stepped out of the darkness and struck him with a small hand axe, according to Maria.
The man then jumped in the van and fled south, leaving behind the murder weapon and Enrique’s bloodied body.
“He was completely hacked to death. He was almost decapitated. His head was only being held on to the rest of his torso with just a few ligaments,” prosecutor Frank Coumou told “Snapped.”
“There were defensive wounds,” former Las Vegas Metro Police Lieutenant Ray Steiber added. “Enrique fought for his life, and ultimately, he couldn’t win.”
In addition to the murder weapon, authorities also found bloody footprints at the crime scene, but there was hardly any other evidence. Fearing an axe murderer was on the loose, a massive manhunt ensued, and the Hernandez van was found several miles away.
“When officers found that van, they discovered that there was blood inside the van. There was blood on the handle on the outside of the van. As well, there was a Buck knife that was found under the front seat,” Steiber told producers.
Outside the van, officers found a trail of blood leading from the driver’s side door that went on for a half mile before abruptly ending. Investigators then began looking for the wounded suspect by reaching out to area hospitals.
“Ultimately, we got a break, and that break was from one of the hospitals. We got a call that a Hispanic male had showed up. He was transported from a residence from across the valley with a stab wound to the abdomen,” Steiber said.
His name was Hector Gutierrez, and he claimed he was the victim of a robbery and had been stabbed by his assailant. Authorities soon realized, however, that he was Maria’s younger brother.
In talking to Enrique's family, authorities learned that the couple’s marriage was in trouble.
“He told me that she had been unfaithful, that he had caught her being unfaithful. She left him for another man, and he was hurt,” Daniel told “Snapped.”
The affair had occurred about four months prior to Enrique's murder, and detectives learned that despite this betrayal, Enrique wanted to patch things up with Maria.
“In fact, they were using this quinceañera as a reason to try to reconnect and to get together back as husband and wife,” Coumou said.
Authorities quickly tracked down Maria’s lover to her hometown in Idaho, but he had an alibi and was ruled out as a suspect.
Speaking with investigators at the hospital, Gutierrez said that the previous night, he was having some drinks at a local bar. When he left, he claimed his car wouldn’t start and that he had to walk to his cousin’s house where he was staying. Gutierrez said that is when he was attacked by two or three men, who stole his wallet and stabbed him.
Before leaving the hospital, authorities received word that the Hernandez van had been pulled over not long before Enrique’s murder. The officer who performed the traffic stop said there was a passenger in the back seat — Hector Guiterrez.
Investigators then obtained Guiterrez’s shoes, which were found to be a match to the bloody footprints found at the crime scene.
When confronted with the evidence, Gutierrez came clean about his involvement in the murder, but he said that killing Enrique wasn’t his idea.
“He claimed that he had been pressured by his sister Maria to do this act,” Coumou told “Snapped.”
Gutierrez said his sister alleged that Enrique abused her, and after learning of her affair, Enrique allegedly hired someone to beat up her lover and threatened to take away their children, according to local newspaper the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“[Gutierrez] said that his sister had told him that she was being abused, and that she wanted to ‘get rid of him,’” Steiber told “Snapped.” “We asked him what he meant by ‘get rid of him.’ He said, ‘Kill him.’”
Maria wired $800 to Gutierrez in California from a Walmart in Idaho, and they arranged to meet up in Las Vegas to carry out the murder plot, according to the Las Vegas Sun. Maria purchased the murder weapon in Idaho, hiding it under a seat in the family minivan during the drive to Nevada.
On the night of the murder, Enrique, Maria, and Gutierrez went out drinking. Maria offered to be the designated driver, and they left together.
Following the traffic stop, Maria feigned car trouble and pulled over. As Enrique looked at the engine, Maria gave the command, and Gutierrez attacked him from behind with the hatchet, striking him five times, according to Fresno, California ABC affiliate KFSN.
Despite his injuries, Enrique defended himself, stabbing Gutierrez with his Buck knife. Maria then came to her brother’s aid.
“Maria actually reached out and grabbed the arms of her husband, trying to hold him back so that her brother could continue to give the fatal blows,” Coumou told “Snapped.”
When detectives brought Maria in for questioning, she stuck to her story about a mysterious attacker before ultimately admitting it was a lie. She claimed, however, that Gutierrez attacked Enrique of his own volition because he was upset with him for allegedly abusing Maria.
“We were never able to substantiate that she was in fact an abused wife,” Steiber told “Snapped.”
Maria and Gutierrez were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder with the use of a deadly weapon, according to “Snapped.” In 2017, they pleaded guilty to the murder of Enrique.
Gutierrez received a 20- to 50-year sentence. Now 27, he will be eligible for parole in 2035.
Maria was sentenced to 25 to 70 years in prison. She will not be eligible for parole until 2040, at which time she will be 58.
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