Jesse Joe Hernandez, 47, was executed by lethal injection on 28 March 2012 in Huntsville, Texas for the murder of a 10-month-old child in his care.
Misty Leverett and her two children lived in Dallas with Jesse Hernandez; his wife, Mary Rojas; their son; and another adult, Gilbert Gomez. On 11 April 2001, at around noon, Leverett left her children - daughter Melodi, 4, and son Karlos Borja, 10 months - in the Hernandez' care while she went to work. Rojas stayed home with the children while Hernandez and Gomez left to run errands.
When the men returned about two hours later, Rojas went to her sister-in-law's house down the street for approximately 30 to 45 minutes. When she returned, she heard Hernandez screaming at Joshua. She took Joshua into their bedroom, then asked him about Melodi and Karlos. He told her that they were sleeping in Leverett's bedroom.
Later, Rojas heard her husband preparing a bottle for Karlos. She told him she was going to check on the children, but he told her not to enter the room so as not to wake them up. Rojas later testified that she saw blood stains on Hernandez' shirt, but waited until Leverett got home from work to check on the children.
When Leverett arrived home from work, she went into her room and found Melodi complaining that her head hurt. Leverett and Rojas took Melodi out of the unlit bedroom into the kitchen and saw that her head was swollen with "red splotches". Leverett decided to take Melodi to the hospital.
After Leverett and Melodi left, Rojas went in to check on Karlos. She noticed that his lips were swollen and determined that he was badly hurt. She took Karlos and Joshua to her sister-in-law's house to call an ambulance.
Leverett later testified that when she arrived with Melodi at the hospital, the workers asked if she had any other children. When she replied that she did, they told her to return home and get her son immediately. When she got home, Hernandez was alone. He told her that Karlos was at his sister's house. She asked him to take her there, but he refused. A few minutes later, police arrived and informed her that Karlos had been taken to the hospital by ambulance.
While investigating the scene, Dallas police discovered that Hernandez had some outstanding warrants, so they arrested him and took him to the police station. Detective Warren Breedlove asked Hernandez about the children, but he denied having any knowledge of what happened to them. He was then taken to the county jail on his other warrants.
Upon speaking with Karlos's doctor and with Melodi, the police made Hernandez a suspect in the assaults. Detective Breedlove interviewed Hernandez and asked him about a flashlight found at the scene. Hernandez admitted that he might have hit Karlos with the flashlight. After about 30 minutes of questioning, Hernandez became upset with Breedlove, stopped the interview, and requested an attorney. He subsequently told Detective Daniel Lesher that he wanted to resume the interview without an attorney. He then gave a written statement. In it, Hernandez said that Melodi and Karlos were "being very bad by crying a lot for nothing." He wrote that he "just exploded and hit them with the back of my hand not realizing I was hurting them." He said he was upset over recently losing his grandmother and had a bad day with his wife. He added that he was sorry for hitting them. Hernandez's written statement made no mention of a flashlight.
Hernandez' DNA was found on Karlos' clothing and mixed in with Karlos' blood on a pillowcase.
About a week after the beating, Karlos was taken off of life support and died. Hernandez was then charged with capital murder. In Texas, the murder of a child under six can be charged as capital murder.
In addition to the testimony by the two women and Hernandez' written confession, the prosecution entered numerous photographs of the children into evidence. The six admitted photos of Melanie showed severe bruising on the left side of her face, two large swollen areas on her head - one on her forehead, and the other on the right side of her head - bruising on her thighs, and bandages on her hands.
The 13 photos of Karlos showed that he had suffered a skull fracture and a subdural hemorrhage on his brain. They also showed hemorrhaging around and in his eyes and showed that his lip had been torn from his gums.
The prosecution also entered testimony from Mary Rojas, Misty Leverett, and Detectives Breedlove and Lesher, who each observed that one of Hernandez' hands appeared to be swollen.
Hernandez did not testify. In his defense, his lawyers objected to the admission of the photographs into evidence, argued that Hernandez' confession was obtained improperly, and theorized that the testimony from multiple witnesses regarding Hernandez' "magic swollen hand" was orchestrated by Detective Breedlove and others.
Hernandez was convicted in 1995 of cocaine possession and indecency with a child and was sentenced to 3 years in prison. He was released in January 1998. A month later, he was returned to a state jail facility for 6 months for failing to register as a sex offender. Testimony at his punishment hearing also showed that he had once beaten his ex-wife with a baseball bat, burned a girlfiend's child with cigarettes, and was found with a shank while in jail.
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