As sus­pect got wife in Mex­ico, law waited

Gam­ble paid off in in­ves­ti­ga­tion of 2009 death

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Steven Krey­tak AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN STAFF

Days af­ter 21-year-old Christy Lynn Espinosa’s body was found badly burned in east­ern Travis County af­ter she dis­ap­peared from a Sixth Street Mardi Gras cel­e­bra­tion last year, au­thor­i­ties had a dilemma, a sher­iff’s deputy tes­ti­fied at a pre­trial hear­ing Wed­nes­day.

Martha Me­d­ina-Her­nan­dez, a sus­pect whose iden­ti­fi­ca­tion was found near the body, was in Mex­ico, and her hus­band, Ken­neth Her­nan­dez, also a sus­pect, wanted to get her and bring her back to Austin, said Deputy Ben Wright.

Ken­neth Her­nan­dez’s sis­ter dis­closed his plan to au­thor­i­ties, who wor­ried he might have been ly­ing about want­ing to bring his wife back to smooth his own es­cape from the coun­try, Wright said.

“We felt like they might be try­ing to trick us,” Wright said.

With no war­rant se­cured

Con­tin­ued from A1 for Ken­neth Her­nan­dez, au­thor­i­ties waited ner­vously af­ter his sis­ter called Wright and said the two were driv­ing south to­ward the border.

The next morn­ing, Wright said he re­laxed a bit when he re­ceived an­other call that they were head­ing back north. Soon the trio crossed into the United States at Ea­gle Pass, and Me­d­ina-Her­nan­dez was ar­rested on a war­rant from a pre­vi­ous case. Three days later, Ken­neth Her­nan­dez was ar­rested, too, and along with his wife was charged with Espinosa’s death.

Wright gave the de­tails lead­ing up to Me­d­ina-Her­nan­dez’s ar­rest at a pre­trial hear­ing on her lawyer’s mo­tion to sup­press state­ments she al­legedly made to her sis­ter-in-law Re­becca Her­nan­dez at a ho­tel in Mex­ico. Me­d­ina-Her­nan­dez’s lawyer, Alex Cal­houn, ar­gued that the state­ment should not be al­lowed be­cause Re­becca Her­nan­dez was act­ing as an agent of law en­force­ment.

State District Judge Bob Perkins, who has not set a trial date for ei­ther de­fen­dant, de­nied the mo­tion.

Wright said of­fi­cials tried to talk Re­becca and Ken­neth Her­nan­dez into meet­ing Me­d­ina-Her­nan­dez on the U.S. side of the border.

“It was their plan, and we just tried to con­trol it as much as we could, but that didn’t hap­pen,” said Wright, a Travis County sher­iff’s deputy who works with a U.S. Mar­shal-led fugi­tive trac­ing task force.

Espinosa was a Crock­ett High School grad­u­ate who had been work­ing as an Ap­ple­bee’s wait­ress.

When an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card was found near her body, de­tec­tives tracked down Ken­neth Her­nan­dez, who ini­tially de­nied be­ing in­volved, ac­cord­ing to an ar­rest af­fi­davit.

Re­becca Her­nan­dez tes­ti­fied Wed­nes­day that about a week af­ter Espinosa’s death, her brother was at Se­ton Shoal Creek Hos­pi­tal in part

left, and both told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that they drove around drink­ing with the woman who died. be­cause “he couldn’t sleep at night.”

Af­ter he was re­leased, Re­becca Her­nan­dez said, her brother had the plan to go and get his wife and told her dur­ing a phone call “that she needed to come back home and face what­ever she did.”

Though Re­becca Her­nan­dez is quoted in an ar­rest af­fi­davit as say­ing that her sis­terin-law con­fessed in Mex­ico to killing Espinosa, she did not give de­tails of that con­fes­sion when pressed by Cal­houn in court.

In the days af­ter they re­turned from Mex­ico, the cou­ple told in­ves­ti­ga­tors a va­ri­ety of sto­ries about Espinosa’s death, and each blamed the other, the af­fi­davits said.

The con­sis­tent part of their sto­ries is that the three drove around Travis County drink­ing late on the night of a Mardi Gras cel­e­bra­tion on Sixth Street, ac­cord­ing to ar­rest af­fi­davits.

In one ac­count, Me­d­i­naHer­nan­dez said Espinosa died af­ter pass­ing out in their car while they were drink­ing. In an­other ac­count, she said that she and her hus­band had picked her up in the hopes of hav­ing a “three­some,” and then to­gether they suf­fo­cated her af­ter she passed out. In that ac­count, Me­d­i­naHer­nan­dez said her hus­band or­dered her to help suf­fo­cate Espinosa.

Ken­neth Her­nan­dez said that his wife had be­come jeal­ous that Espinosa had been flirt­ing with him and suf­fo­cated her with Saran Wrap.

Ken­neth Her­nan­dez, Martha Me­d­ina-Her­nan­dez

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