Kendra Hatcher’s Death: How the Dentist Died

Ricky Paniagua Kendra Hatcher

Facebook Brenda Delgado (left) and Ricky Paniagua with Kendra Hatcher (right)

Kendra Hatcher was a pediatric dentist who was killed in a murder-for-hire plot devised by her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend, Brenda Delgado, in Dallas in 2015.

Delgado, 31, recruited two acquaintances, Kristopher Love and Crystal Cortes, to carry out the killing after her ex-boyfriend, Dr. Ricardo “Ricky” Paniagua, told her in an email he was in a new relationship, and it was going well. Hatcher was 35.

Dateline NBC is diving into the case on a new episode, which airs Friday, November 13, 2020 at 9 p.m. Eastern time.

Here’s what you need to know:

Delgado Hired a Small-Time Marijuana Dealer & a Single Mom to Help Her Carry Out Her Murder Plot

Love, who was convicted of pulling the trigger on Hatcher, and Cortes, who was recruited as the getaway driver, were people Delgado “barely knew” when she asked them to help her kill Hatcher, according to a profile by Texas Monthly. Love was a small-time marijuana dealer and Cortes was “a down-on-her-luck single mother.”

Cortes was offered $500 to serve as the getaway driver. When asked why she was willing to take $500 to be involved in a murder, she gave the Texas Monthly reporter “a blank look.”

“I was broke,” she said. “And I had a son to support.”

Love, on the other hand, wanted start-up money for a prostitution ring, Texas Monthly reported. Delgado concocted a story that she had connections to a drug cartel, and she said he would pay him $3,000 in a combination of drugs and cash.

The night of Hatcher’s murder, Paniagua texted Delgado to tell her his devastating news. She texted him back the next morning, offering to bring him groceries or help with anything he needed.

A juror who served on the case puzzled over the murder in a piece written for the Dallas Observer.

“I still don’t understand what makes people do such stupid, cruel things,” wrote Casey Miller. “How does a 23-year-old Dallas woman get talked into planning and completing a murder with someone she has known for one month? When does a dental hygienist student in her 30s become so self-absorbed that she must have the new girlfriend of her ex “eliminated” so they can be reunited and live happily ever after? Why does a train-wreck stoner with three kids of his own think cash, a bag of weed and some cocaine is an even trade for shooting a stranger in the back of the head, execution style?”

Hatcher Was Shot in the Back of the Head & Her Purse Was Stolen to Make the Murder Look Like She Was Targeted Randomly for a Robbery

Hatcher and her boyfriend were planning to leave on a vacation to Cancun the day after her murder. She was gunned down, execution style, on September 2, 2015 in the parking garage of her uptown Dallas apartment. Hatcher was shot in the back of the head and her purse was stolen, in an attempt to make the planned murder look like a random violent crime, according to CBS Dallas.

She died from a gunshot wound to the back of her head, Texas Monthly reported.

Miller summed up the case and the presentation from both sides, making a note of the autopsy photos the jurors viewed and the obvious devastation of Hatcher’s mom on the witness stand.

“The state opened its case Monday morning, putting the mother of the murdered dentist on the witness stand. Watching her physical agony from grief, shaking as she struggled to answer questions about her daughter almost four years after the murder, was searing,” Miller wrote. “Fast-forward to Thursday morning: The state closed with autopsy testimony and the essential-but-gruesome autopsy photos. The defense presented its case in less than two hours on Thursday afternoon, one cellphone record expert, then rested.”

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