Paxton Secures Three Life Sentences in Cold Case

Texas AG Paxton | Image by Sergio Flores for The Texas Tribune

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced on Wednesday that a plea deal will send a man convicted of robbing, assaulting, and murdering a 72-year-old woman in 1981 to prison for three consecutive life sentences.

Paxton’s office worked with Assistant Attorneys General Natalie Tise and Matthew Ottoway, assisted District Attorney Micheal Murray of the 35th Judicial District and First Assistant Elisha Bird to close the 42-year-old cold case, according to a statement on the conviction.

Pablo Figueroa was convicted after DNA evidence collected from the scene of the crime was matched to his Combined DNA Index System profile. Figueroa was already incarcerated on charges of smuggling three unlawful migrants and was due to be released this year when the testing confirmed he was a match.

On April 27, 1981, Donna Mae Inlow was attacked while working at her family shoe store in Brownwood, Texas. Her assailant dragged her into a back room, sexually assaulted her, fractured her skull, and then repeatedly stabbed her in the chest before emptying the cash register. Inlow was found the next morning when a concerned next-door business owner saw that her store had remained closed.

Initially, investigators believed that Frank Lombardino, Jr. had committed the heinous crime, and in 1982, a jury issued an indictment. Lombardino was cleared, however, after blood and hair samples showed that he was not the killer, according to a report from the Brownwood News.

Jesus Aleman Flores was also indicted for the murder. Texas officials had secured a blood sample from Flores in 1985, but the sample was not viable when testing was conducted in 1991. His attorneys successfully argued that Texas did not have the authority to collect a second sample, and the court disallowed the use of a 1991 sample in the case.

A third individual, Henry Lee Lucas, who was arrested in 1983 on charges of murdering 11 people, confessed to killing Inlow along with more than 600 other people. Authorities determined, however, that Lucas was in Florida at the time of Inlow’s death.

Figueroa’s DNA was identified as a match to a sample collected from Inlow’s pantyhose in 2001, though the match did not happen until 2019. An indictment was issued against Figueroa in December 2022. In September 2023, Figueroa completed his federal sentence and was transferred to Brown County.

A plea deal was struck between prosecutors and defense attorneys, “resulting in guilty pleas for capital murder, aggravated robbery, and aggravated rape, each coupled with a life sentence to run consecutive to each other, waiving presentencing time credits, and waiving future challenges to the convictions,” per Paxton’s press release.

Heinous crimes such as murder plague victims statewide. In Dallas, the homicide rate rose by 15% between 2022 and 2023, according to data from the City’s crime analytics dashboard. Murder victims were overwhelmingly black and Hispanic males.

The increases in murders and other types of crime, such as motor vehicle theft, have come as the Dallas Police Department (DPD) has been laboring against a longstanding officer shortage. In an analysis by the City, a force of 4,000 was recommended to ensure public safety yet DPD fields just around 3,000.

Long police response times and surging criminality in Downtown Dallas, especially compared to Fort Worth’s city center, which is patrolled by a dedicated police unit and private security officers, are also evidenced results of this lack of resources, as extensively covered in The Dallas Express. Yet City officials voted in a budget of just $654 million for police operations this fiscal year, allocating considerably less than counterparts in other high-crime municipalities, such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

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