A clash between the families of a murder victim and her alleged killer created chaos in a Texas courtroom on Tuesday.
Frank DeLeon Jr. appeared before a Harris County judge on October 17 and pleaded guilty to the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Diamond Alvarez, in 2022.
The 16-year-old victim had been walking her dog in her southwest Houston neighborhood when DeLeon allegedly shot her 22 times. The two had allegedly planned to meet up that evening after Alvarez discovered DeLeon, now 19, had been dating another girl.
“Don’t ruin this for me,” DeLeon had allegedly asked her by text a few days earlier.
DeLeon had been out on bond leading up to his court appearance, which was initially scheduled on October 16. However, he missed it due to allegedly getting into a car accident on the way to court. The judge ordered an urgent bond hearing the following day. DeLeon was offered a plea deal at that time, which he accepted.
The eruption between DeLeon and Alvarez’s families began when Alvarez’s mother, Anna Machado, allegedly went after DeLeon upon reading her victim impact statement, in which she referred to him as “a monster,” according to Fox 4 News KDFW.
Several family members from both sides began to clash, with the brawl lasting for several minutes before security managed to break them up.
“That was wrong of me,” Machado later said, per Fox 4. “That was wrong of us because we’re not monsters. But it’s so much hate because I want my daughter back. And what he did was horrible. … I apologize to the judge, and I apologize to them.”
However, the conflict between the two families allegedly continued outside the courtroom, with Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg reporting that Alvarez’s family had received threatening messages on social media, according to KPRC-TV.
The Alvarez family was barred from attending DeLeon’s sentencing hearing on October 19, where the young man was sentenced to 45 years in prison. He will be eligible for parole after completing 22.5 years in accordance with the plea deal brokered with prosecutors.
“They had every right to be here today, and so we look for some type of peace in this neighborhood, but understand that law enforcement has been informed and they will respond … just like they did when there was violence in the courtroom,” Ogg said, per KPRC-TV.
As of October 19, there have been 369 homicides committed in Houston since the start of the year, according to a neighborhood safety tracker managed by ABC 13.
Despite Houston having a population of over 2.2 million people and Dallas having a population of over 1.2 million people, Dallas has clocked 234 homicides over that same period. According to the City’s crime analytics dashboard, 204 of them have been murder and non-negligent manslaughter offenses, marking a nearly 13% increase year over year.
As recently reported in The Dallas Express, a police shortage has dampened the Dallas Police Department’s ability to rein in violent crime. The department maintains a force of fewer than 3,200 sworn personnel, roughly 800 less than the 4,000 recommended by a City analysis.
By contrast, the downtown area of neighboring Fort Worth sees considerably lower rates of crime. It is reportedly patrolled by a special neighborhood police unit working in conjunction with private security guards.