The trial of a man who gunned down two healthcare professionals at Methodist Dallas Medical Center last year ended Thursday with a jury finding him guilty of capital murder.
Nestor Hernandez, 31, will serve life in prison without the possibility of parole after a Dallas County jury deliberated for an hour and a half and rejected the defense’s request to convict on the lesser charge of murder.
Hernandez’s trial for the murders of social worker Jacqueline Pokuaa and nurse Katie Annette Flowers began on November 6. He fatally shot the two women while visiting his then-girlfriend in the maternity ward after she had given birth to their son, as previously covered in The Dallas Express. The defendant was on parole at the time for an aggravated robbery conviction and had been given permission to break house arrest to see his newborn son.
However, as his ex-girlfriend Selena Villatoro testified during the trial, he quickly became agitated and convinced that the child wasn’t his. He then became violent, brandishing a weapon and using it to strike Villatoro.
“This man […] was walking resentment, rage, anger with a plan to kill,” Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot told jurors prior to their deliberations, according to WFAA. “And he took all of that into that place where new life, new birth, new hopes, new plans are the only things that are supposed to reside in that tower. And what he took in there was death two times.”
Creuzot has faced significant criticism for appearing soft on crime. Such accusations stem in part from his since-reversed policy of not prosecuting thefts valued at $750 or less. More recently, the district attorney also chose not to seek the death penalty in the case of accused serial killer Billy Chemirmir.
Now-convicted killer Hernandez took the stand at his own trial, claiming that the killings of Pokuaa and Flowers were accidents that had resulted from his panicking. Still, testimony from Villatoro and others in the ward that day was sufficient to convince the jury otherwise.
Other evidence considered by the jurors when coming to their verdict included surveillance footage from the hospital ward and body cam footage from Methodist officer Sgt. Robert Rangel, who exchanged fire with Hernandez during the incident. They requested to review these videos again as they were deliberating.
Family and friends of Hernandez’s victims were in the courtroom during the trial, wearing purple on one day in tribute to Flowers, then shades of red in remembrance of Pokuaa on another.
The two women were murdered within Dallas city limits, but since the hospital has its own police force, their deaths were not included in the City’s crime statistics for 2022.
Nonetheless, murder has been on the rise in Dallas this year despite the Dallas Police Department’s concerted effort to fight violent crime. There had been 215 murders and non-negligent homicides in DPD’s jurisdiction as of November 9, representing an increase of 12.6% year over year, according to the department’s crime analytics dashboard.
DPD has been experiencing an ongoing staffing shortage, maintaining fewer than 3,200 officers serving at present. A City analysis recommends that a municipality the size of Dallas have roughly 4,000 sworn law enforcement personnel, about three for every 1,000 residents.
The deficit is perhaps most apparent in Downtown Dallas, which has a significantly elevated crime rate compared to the downtown area of Fort Worth. The latter is patrolled by a designated police unit in addition to private security guards.