Testimony begins in Zoe Hastings murder trial

- The mother of a murdered 18-year-old woman testified Thursday, saying after her daughter was raped and murdered she became a sex assault trauma nurse.

The capital murder trial for Antonio Cochran got underway Thursday morning. He pleaded not guilty of killing Zoe Hastings.

She disappeared in October of 2015 after returning a rented video at a northeast Dallas drug store. Her body was found the next day near her family’s wrecked-out minivan close to White Rock Lake.

Zoe’s mother, Cheryl, told jurors the family became worried after Zoe did not come home from bible study. About 6:30 p.m. on October 11, her family “began texting her and calling her. We knew something was up.”

The family called 911 that night around 10 p.m. By midnight, police had not shown up so they went to file a missing person report. They were finally led to where Zoe’s body was found Monday morning when a family member used the Find My iPhone App. Paramedics were already there.

“As we drove up, you could see emergency lights, “Cheryl said. “They gave us the horrible news that she had passed.”

Prosecutors said Hastings had been sexually assaulted and stabbed to death. Paramedics found a knife at the scene with blood and DNA on it. That blood belonged to Hastings. The DNA on the handle matched Cochran’s.

Jurors were drawn in as the prosecutor and crime scene detective Marshall McLemore showed pictures of Zoe's body outside the van in the creek bed.

Witness Lester Clark says he saw Zoe Hastings getting in her van and saw a man abruptly approach and put his hand in the door to stop it from closing. They were talking. She scooted over, and he got in and said the man, who he could not identify, drove hurriedly from the Walgreen's parking lot.

Defense attorney Paul Johnson challenged Clark on his testimony, including the time of day he saw the confrontation happen and the description of the person he saw driving Zoe’s van with her in the passenger seat.

Cheryl, who was previously a nurse at Parkland Hospital, said since her daughter’s death she has become a trauma nurse who focuses on helping sexual assault victims.

“These people need someone to help care for them in a very vulnerable part of their life,” she said.

Cochran’s fate will be decided by a jury of eight women and four men, with one alternate.

If found guilty, he would not face the death penalty because he has an intellectual disability. Instead, he would be automatically sentenced to life in prison without parole.

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