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Omar Torres Sentenced to Life in Prison in 2016 TX Murder of Estuar Quionez
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Thread: Omar Torres Sentenced to Life in Prison in 2016 TX Murder of Estuar Quionez

  1. #1
    Administrator Helen's Avatar
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    Omar Torres Sentenced to Life in Prison in 2016 TX Murder of Estuar Quionez





    Harris County DA will seek death penalty against MS-13 gang member

    By Keri Blakinger
    Houston Chronicle

    Omar Torres was already behind bars when he ordered the hit, police say.

    The suspected MS-13 gang member was arrested in June 2016 after the brutal slaying of Noe Mendez four months earlier. He could have been facing life in prison but only if the teen slated to testify against him lived to tell the tale.

    He didnt.

    Now Torres is facing the possibility of even harsher punishment. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg is seeking a death sentence in the case, believed to be the first initiated by her office since she took over in January 2017.

    The MS-13 case joins four older cases most with multiple victims in which Ogg is pursuing the ultimate punishment, according to documents obtained by the Houston Chronicle through an open records request.

    Still, the numbers are down from this point in the last administration, when prosecutors were handling more than a dozen pending death cases at once.

    I dont think that being the death penalty capital of America is a selling point for Harris County, Ogg told the Chronicle previously.

    The shift comes amid a long-term decline in capital punishment, even in Harris County; last year was the first year in three decades the county doled out no new death sentences and saw none of its killers executed in Huntsville.

    A really bad act

    The decision to seek a death sentence in the Torres case seemed obvious to prosecutors.

    Less than a week after Torres arrest, investigators found the bloody body of the witness against him 16-year-old Estuar Quionez in a Fort Bend County park, surrounded by 25 shell casings.

    He was already in jail for murdering a guy; it was an MS-13 gang shooting, said Assistant District Attorney Colleen Barnett. He arranged to have that witness killed and we believe that was just a really bad act that he committed.

    The 26-year-old Houston man was charged in the second slaying in July 2016 and prosecutors made the decision to seek death late last year. His lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.

    The other four cases in which Oggs office is still seeking death are grisly holdovers from previous administrations.

    One of the oldest is Lucky Ward, who is charged with strangling a homeless woman with a bra and choking to death a transgender women known as Gypsy. Shortly after his arrest, police called the frequently homeless man a serial killer and said theyd linked him to at least three other bodies. Then-DA Pat Lykos originally sought death in his case back in 2012, and Ogg decided in February 2017 to continue on that path.

    A week later, Oggs office opted to keep aiming for a death sentence for David Ray Conley, a Houston man who allegedly shot his estranged ex-girlfriend Valerie Jackson, her husband and six children, including his own son.

    He later told the Chronicle in a jailhouse interview that he didnt approve of how Jackson was raising the children.

    The Bible says, Thou shall respect your mother and father or your days shall be short, he said. Im not God, but you know, then, Im the man of the house.

    In July, prosecutors decided to keep seeking death in the case of Steven Alexander Hobbs, a Crosby security guard accused of raping or killing six prostitutes since 2002.

    Finally, in November, Ogg decided to continue going after the harshest punishment in the case of Ronald Haskell, a Utah man accused of disguising himself as a FedEx worker and breaking into a Spring home to shoot a family of six execution-style in 2014.

    In at least one case, Oggs office reversed course and decided not to seek a death sentence. Under a prior administration, prosecutors had planned to pursue the ultimate punishment against Maytham Alsaedy, a Harris County man accused of stabbing 22-year-old Kella Bracken to death and leaving her body in the car at a pizzeria parking lot.

    Initially, Oggs office elected to seek a death sentence against the mentally ill 26-year-old after reviewing the case in April. But after the victims mother requested a life sentence for her daughters killer, prosecutors reevaluated the case in November and decided against death.

    The following month, Alsaedy hanged himself in the Harris County jail, a week before he was set to accept a plea to life without parole.

    Mirroring national trends


    The relatively low number of cases headed toward a death sentence comes as prosecutors have tweaked their process for deciding whether to seek the states harshest punishment.

    Under past administrations, prosecutors would send recommendations for death or life up the chain of command, Barnett said. Ultimately, their input would be taken into consideration but the final decision rested with the
    district attorney.

    You can tell when theres a case that we need to seek death on, Barnett said. Its never, Well were not sure. Were always sure.

    When Ogg took over the office, she shifted to a more democratic process, where top prosecutors meet a view times a month, review the cases, consider mitigating evidence from the defense, and vote on whether to seek death.

    But in recent years, souring public opinion and the availability of life without parole as a sentencing option have led to fewer death sentences, even in a state with more executions than any other.

    If you take a look at the national trends, Harris County is mirroring the national trend, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. Everywhere we are seeing a reduction in the use of the death penalty and that would be the case even if we had the same prosecutorial culture in place. But when the prosecutorial culture changes, you tend to see even more dramatic changes in the way the death penalty is pursued.

    Although Ogg has not opposed the use of capital punishment, she expressed caution about its frequent use even before taking office.

    While her opponent aired radio and TV ads touting herself as a tough prosecutor and promising the death penalty and long sentences, Ogg was more circumspect.

    Under an Ogg administration, you will see very few death penalty prosecutions, she told Reuters before the 2016 election, calling the death penalty a terrible image for our city and our country.

    Just a little over three years ago, the district attorneys office, under then-DA Devon Anderson, was seeking death in 16 cases, including 13 new ones and three retrials. Two of those Hobbs and Ward are still on the list of death-noticed cases under Ogg, their trials delayed by DNA testing and Hurricane Harvey, among other things.

    Theyre scheduled to go to trial within the next year.

    https://www.chron.com/news/houston-t...t-12888451.php
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    "There are some people who just do not deserve to live,"
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

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    Harris County D.A. to seek death penalty against 2nd alleged MS-13 gang member in informant slaying

    By Keri Blakinger
    Houston Chronicle

    Douglas Alexander Herrera-Hernandez, 20, is charged with capital murder in Fort Bend and Harris counties.

    His nickname was Terror and his alleged crime was brutal.

    But now the MS-13 gang member could be headed for death row after District Attorney Kim Ogg formally gave notice that her office has decided to seek a death sentence against a Salvadoran immigrant accused in the retaliatory group killing of a teenage Houston police informant.

    In an expansive case with seven men charged, Douglas Alexander Herrera-Hernandez is now the 2nd person facing the possibility of the state's harshest punishment for the 2016 murder in a Fort Bend park.

    "We will not tolerate this behavior," said prosecutor Lisa Collins, who is handling all 7 of the capital murder cases connected to the teen's death. "The criminal element has to take prosecution seriously and I think that's what we do by being consistent and making sure that each case is held to the highest standards."

    The decision comes amid a changing landscape for capital punishment in the place historically most fond of it. Though earlier this month Harris County sent its 1st man to death row in 4 years, Ogg has overseen taking 4 killers off the row and decided to stop seeking the ultimate punishment in a handful of cases once possibly headed there.

    "Part of it is an indication that her administration is taking a more progressive view of criminal justice issues," said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, "but part of it is a significant national decline and whatever administration was in would be pursuing the death penalty less frequently and settling more cases."

    The accused killer's lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

    On the night of June 13, 2016, Herrera-Hernandez and four of his associates allegedly lured 16-year-old Estuar Quinonez to Buffalo Run Park in Missouri City. Some of the men hid in the bushes, lying in wait as the others led the teen down a gravel trail.

    Estuar and one of his eventual killers were sitting on a bench trying to smoke pot out of a plastic bottle around 11 p.m. when another member of the crew fired the 1st shot, according to court records.

    One by one, they all shot the teen, continuing to fire until he stopped moving, records show.

    The next morning, a jogger was the first to spot the boy's body, lying in the trail. Initially, she thought he'd collapsed from the heat - and then she saw the puddle of blood around his head.
    Police quickly realized the teen might be a gang member, and a few calls later they found his contact at Houston police, a sergeant who showed up and identified Estuar as an informant.

    The killing, the sergeant said according to court filings, looked like a hit in retaliation for helping police with an MS-13 case. A suspected local gang leader, Omar Torres, had allegedly ordered the murder from inside the county jail - where he was facing another murder charge for the brutal killing of Noe Mendez 4 months earlier.

    After the hit on the teen, Torres was facing another charge: capital murder. 6 others were targeted with the same charge, including 5 men who are accused of shooting the teen, and one accused of delivering the deadly orders.

    When police began making arrests, most of charges were brought in Fort Bend County. There, prosecutors had not yet decided whether to seek death sentences when they opted to transfer the proceedings to Harris County in the interest of continuity. By trying the cases in the same county, 1 prosecutor could handle them all.

    "It was just about efficiency and consolidation," said Fort Bend County prosecutor Matt Banister.
    After the switch to Harris, a committee of prosecutors here decided to seek a death sentence against Torres.

    "He was already in jail for murdering a guy; it was an MS-13 gang shooting," Assistant District Attorney Colleen Barnett said in May. "He arranged to have that witness killed and we believe that was just a really bad act that he committed."

    A few weeks later, the district attorney's office decided to seek the same punishment for Herrera-Hernandez, who was also accused in another killing. It was the additional murders that made those 2 cases stand out; it's less likely prosecutors will seek death sentences for the others accused in Estuar's killing, Collins said. 2 of the others charged aren't eligible for capital punishment because they were under 18 at the time of the crime.

    Though the committee's decision in Herrera-Hernandez's case marks the district attorney's 2nd move to seek the death penalty in a new case this year, Ogg's record on capital punishment is more mixed. In the 20 months she's been in office, the state has taken 4 killers - Duane Buck, Calvin Hunter, Michael Norris, and Robert Campbell- off death row. Last year, for the 1st time in more than 3 decades, no Harris County killers were executed and no new death sentences doled out.

    At the same time, Ogg's office has decided to no longer pursue a death sentence in at least 9 cases, including some men who were sent back from death row for retrials.

    But despite a more progressive approach overall, Ogg hasn't entirely eschewed capital punishment. Her office is still pursuing death sentences in a handful of other cases that are grisly holdovers from previous administrations. 2 serial killers - Danny Bible and Anthony Shore - have been put to death under her watch, and a man convicted of killing a Houston police officer is now scheduled for execution next year.

    https://www.chron.com/news/houston-t...t-13189430.php
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    "There are some people who just do not deserve to live,"
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  3. #3
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    3 Harris County defendants no longer to face death penalty prosecutions

    3 capital murder defendants in Harris County, including 2 suspected MS-13 gang members and a former security guard, will no longer face death penalty prosecutions, according to records from the Harris County District Attorneys Office.

    Within the past year, members of the offices Capital Committee have determined that the men were not appropriate for death penalty prosecution, the records show.

    Through an office spokesman, District Attorney Kim Ogg declined to comment. The offices Capital Review Committee, usually composed of anywhere from five to a dozen senior prosecutors, determines whether to seek a death sentence in cases after reviewing facts of the case as well as any materials submitted by the defense suggesting why a death sentence may not be appropriate. The committees discussions are confidential.

    The 3 defendants are still slated to stand trial for capital murder, a conviction which now would automatically result in a life sentence without parole. 2 of the men were suspected MS-13 gang members in the 2016 killing of a teenage police informant. The other is a former Crosby security guard accused in multiple murders of sex workers.

    Douglas Herrera-Hernandez, 23, and Omar Torres, 27, will face juries in the June 2016 retaliatory group killing of the informant at a Fort Bend park. Seven men were charged in the case, but they were the only two to face a possible death penalty because they also held charges in separate murders, prosecutors said at the time.

    Police said Herrera-Hernandez and 4 associates lured 16-year-old Estuar Quionez to Buffalo Run Park in Missouri City, some of them lying in wait in the bushes as others led the teen down a gravel trail.

    Estuar and one of his eventual killers were sitting on a bench when one by one, they all shot the teen, continuing to fire until he stopped moving, records show. Torres, a suspected local gang leader, had allegedly ordered the murder from inside the county jail - where he was facing another murder charge in the brutal killing of Noe Mendez 4 months earlier.

    Most of the charges were first brought in Fort Bend County, but prosecutors there opted to transfer the proceedings to Harris County in the interest in continuity.

    The other defendant who no longer faces a death prosecution is Steven Hobbs, 49. The Crosby security guard was arrested in 2011, accused of sexually assaulting and killing a prostitute, 48-year-old Sarah Annette Sanford.

    Investigators previously said they also were looking into the killings of 15 prostitutes dating as far back as 1996.

    Hobbs is also charged with killing another prostitute, Patricia Ann Pyatt, 38. If Hobbs is convicted, prosecutors were expected to tell jurors Hobbs is implicated in the sexual assault of 10 other women who came forward after he was arrested, the Chronicle previously reported.

    Herrera-Hernandezs lawyer declined to comment, and attorneys for Torres and Hobbs didnt respond to request for comment.

    While Ogg has removed at least 4 accused killers off death row and stopped pursuing death sentences for at least 12 defendants, she has not sworn off the death penalty entirely.

    Her prosecutors have also secured death sentences for 2 defendants within the last 2 years in the cases of Ronald Haskell, convicted in the massacre of 6 family members in Spring, and serial killer Lucky Ward.

    Oggs office did cut the number of death penalty cases significantly. In 2015, the district attorneys office planned to seek death in 16 cases under then-District Attorney Devon Anderson. The number dropped significantly under Ogg, with 7 on the list as of December 2019.

    Those removals reflect a landscape in Texas where the death penalty is not as highly sought or upheld, said Kristin Houl Cuellar, executive director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Since 2016, 32 people have been taken off death row because their sentences changed or they passed away, with 8 of those from Harris County.

    Things have changed quite dramatically, she said.

    Reasons why district attorneys offices are pursuing the death penalty less are speculative, said David R. Dow, professor at the University of Houston Law Center. But trial lawyers have gotten better at focusing on mitigation, or reasons why someone shouldnt be sentenced to death, and exonerations receive a lot of media attention, meaning juries are more cautious about imposing death, he said.

    Jurors also have a more appealing option with the availability of life without parole all reasons that make costly death penalty prosecutions more of a gamble for district attorneys offices.

    All that means the DA no longer gets death whenever they seek it, he said.

    3 people remain on death notice in Harris County, records show. After Ward was sentenced to death, 6 remained on the list, which was further brought down to 3 with the latest removals.

    The 3 who are still facing death penalty prosecutions are Jeremy Wayne Miller, David Ray Conley and Shelton Jones.

    Miller is accused in the 2014 shooting death of a man in a drug deal-gone bad, as well as a separate murder of a security guard. Conley faces three counts of capital murder in the fatal shootings of his estranged ex-girlfriend
    Valerie Jackson, her husband and 6 children, including his own son one by one in the head. Jones will be retried after being originally sent to death row for the April 1991 murder of a police officer. A federal district court overturned his sentence in light of bad jury instructions.

    https://www.houstonchronicle.com/new...e-15826865.php
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    "There are some people who just do not deserve to live,"
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

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    MS-13 gang member who murdered Houston teen sentenced to life in prison

    By Daniela Sternitzky-Di-Napoli
    Click 2 Houston

    HOUSTON – An MS-13 gang member convicted of capital murder in the 2016 death of a Houston teen has been sentenced to life in prison.

    Douglas Alexander Herrera-Hernandez, a.k.a “Terror” and several other MS-13 gang members lured then 16-year-old Estuar Quinonez out to Buffalo Run Park in Missouri City on June 13, 2016, according to a news release.

    Prosecutors said Herrera-Hernandez called gang leaders in El Salvador to get permission to kill Quinonez. After receiving permission, Herrera-Hernandez arranged to have several other gang members hide in the surrounding area while two other members picked up Quinonez.

    While Quinonez sat on a park bench, Herrera-Hernandez and the other gang members ambushed the 16-year-old and started “shooting at him, hitting him in the head,” according to the release.

    According to the release, all the gang members, including Herrera-Hernandez, fired at the teen.

    Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said the county is working to eliminate this gang.

    “We are trying to break the back of this organization by sending their assassins to prison for as long as possible and we will remain unrelenting in our pursuit of these criminals who band together to terrorize communities,” Ogg said.

    https://www.click2houston.com/news/l...ife-in-prison/
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    "There are some people who just do not deserve to live,"
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

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    Third man receives sentence in killing of witness in Missouri City

    By Matt deGrood
    The Fort Bend Star

    The mastermind behind the 2016 killing of a teenager at a park in Missouri City as part of an effort to silence him as a witness in a murder trial has been sentenced to life in prison, according to a Thursday news release from the Harris County District Attorneys Office.

    A Harris County jury this week found Omar Torres, 28, guilty of capital murder in connection to the death of Estuar Quinonez, 16, after a nearly two-week trial, according to the DAs office. Torres is ineligible for parole.

    Torres, a member of the MS-13 transnational gang, was in Harris County jail in 2016 when he directed several fellow gang members to kill Quinonez because the teenager was cooperating with authorities and had agreed to testify against Torres in connection to the ambush and killing of a rival gang member, according to the news release.

    While in jail, Torres phoned fellow gang members who lured Quinonez to Buffalo Run Park in Missouri City and shot him 15 times as he sat on a park bench, prosecutors said.

    Torres had initially been arrested for the death of Noe Mendez, who was shot and killed by several MS-13 members in February 2016 in the Gulfton area, according to the news release.

    MS-13 is a transnational gang that started in California in the 1980s and quickly spread across the country and into Central America. The gang now has a presence in major cities, including in Houston and the region.

    This is the third person to receive a sentence in connection to the death of Quinonez.

    Jose Guerra Sibrian in June was sentenced to 50 years in prison for assisting in the killing of Quinonez, prosecutors announced. Sibrian will be eligible for parole after serving 30 years of his sentence.

    And in May, Douglas Alexander Herrera-Hernandez was sentenced to life in prison after a jury found him guilty of capital murder, according to court records.

    https://www.fortbendstar.com/countyn...5697e0a14.html
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    "There are some people who just do not deserve to live,"
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    "Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

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