Brenda Delgado was sentenced to life in prison without parole for hiring two people to kill her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend.
Brenda Delgado, 36, was studying to be a dental hygienist when a fixation on her ex took a dark turn. She had been dating a dermatologist named Ricardo Paniagua, but their breakup and his subsequent new relationship left her feeling jealous and angry.
Delgado’s ex testified at her trial that he had not been aware of Delgado’s continuing feelings. Ricardo Paniagua said that the two had been involved from fall 2012 to summer 2014 and again from November 2014 to February 2015. He thought that they had left things on friendly terms, and he said that they used to still text from time to time. He said he met Kendra Hatcher on an online dating website after they broke up, and things got serious with her quickly.
Unbeknownst to Paniagua, Delgado was tracking his location using the GPS in his phone. She also routinely checked his email and other messages, according to witnesses. During this time, she attempted to recruit two other people to help her carry out the murder, witnesses say, before she enlisted her two accomplices.
On September 2, 2015, Kendra Hatcher was shot in the back of the head in the parking garage of her complex. Delgado’s accomplice Kristopher Love, 35, fired the shot, and her other accomplice Crystal Cortes, 27, drove the getaway car.
According to Cortes’ testimony, Delgado paid her $500 to drive the getaway car that night. She also testified that Love had been paid in money and drugs. She went on to share how she and Delgado had driven around town prior to the crime, plotting different ways they might murder Hatcher.
“She wanted to get rid of Kendra Hatcher because she was envious of her,” Cortes testified.
After the crime, Delgado’s accomplices were arrested in a matter of weeks, but Delgado herself went into hiding in Mexico. She was extradited to the United States in October 2016.
Dallas News reports the jury spent less than 20 minutes on June 7 deliberating before they delivered their verdict, finding Delgado guilty of masterminding the 2015 assassination.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. A Former Classmate Said Delgado Was ‘Obsessed’ with Her Ex-Boyfriend
One of Delgado’s former classmates told The Daily Mail that she seemed to have an obsession with Paniagua. He said that when the class introduced themselves and talked about their families as part of an icebreaker, Delgado only mentioned her boyfriend. “It stuck out because if you’re meeting everyone you talk about your family, where you’re from — and hers was all about Ricky,” he said.
When the anonymous classmate first knew Delgado, she was still involved with Paniagua and would often talk about their future together. “She kept reiterating that he was going to have money and that dermatology’s the highest-paying type of medicine,” he said.
The classmate also revealed that in January 2014, Delgado began wearing a ring to class and telling people that the couple had gotten engaged. However, he said a few weeks later she came to class crying, saying that Paniagua’s mother had told her to stay away from him. He said that in the summer of 2015, Delgado said that she and Paniagua had split, and Delgado was complaining that he was taking another woman to San Francisco to meet his parents. Apparently, he had never taken her on that trip, and Delgado’s jealousy was triggered.
Witnesses in Delgado’s trial shared that she had showed them how she checked Paniagua’s emails, tracked his location, and saved photos of him with Hatcher, according to Dallas News. Two witnesses also shared that she had tried to recruit them for her plot before landing on Crystal Cortes and Kristopher Love.
2. Delgado’s Attack on Hatcher Came Just Before a Vacation the New Couple Had Planned Together
WFAA reports that Hatcher and Paniagua had been dating for about six months at the time of the tragic shooting. The pair were planning to leave on a trip to Mexico the day after Kendra Hatcher was fatally shot.
Hatcher was a well-liked pediatric dentist from Illinois. Her mother Bonnie Jameson told Dallas News that she felt justice had been done with Delgado’s sentence, and had harsh words for Delgado herself. “You could’ve never measured up to be the woman that my daughter Kendra Hatcher was,” she said on the stand.
At Kristopher Love’s trial, Hatcher’s friend and former classmate Tami Patano also expressed her grief over losing her friend. “I don’t do a lot of smiling anymore. I have isolated myself from a lot of my friends. It has affected my marriage, my ability as a mother. It is affecting everything,” she said. “And I am not the only one. This is a butterfly effect. Kendra’s murder has affected thousands of people.”
3. After the Assassination, Delgado Fled to Mexico
Following the September 2 shooting, Delgado crossed the border, hiding in Mexico where she is a citizen. Meanwhile, both of her accomplices were arrested. According to the FBI, Delgado was arrested in Mexico on April 8, 2016. She was extradited to the United States in October 2016, with the condition that she could not be sentenced to death.
At the time, Delgado’s attorney George R. Milner claimed his client had fled because she could not afford a lawyer. He told CBS DFW that she was not yet a suspect when she went to Mexico, so she had done nothing wrong. “They did not let her walk out of police custody unless they believed she was totally innocent. They never put any surveillance on her, so she’s got a case,” said Milner.
4. She Was One of the FBI’s Most Wanted Fugitives
5. Delgado’s Accomplices Have Also Been Sentenced
In October 2018, Kristopher Love was found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to death. CBS DFW reports lead prosecutor Kevin Brooks said, “Kristopher Love agreed to commit the murder for drugs and money. This was not a crime of spontaneity. This was a premeditated and well planned out crime.”
Assistant District Attorney Glen Fitzmartin added, “He’s the worst of the worst criminals. This was not a mistake. It was a choice of execution.”
Driver Crystal Cortes pleaded guilty to the murder and received a 35-year sentence after agreeing to testify against Delgado and Love.