Trial for man accused of murdering Dallas teen Zoe Hastings starts Thursday

It’s been more than two years since a northeast Dallas 18-year-old girl was abducted, assaulted and murdered just blocks from her home and on her way to church.

The man who police say killed Zoe Hastings finally goes on trial for her death on Thursday. Antonio Cochran is charged with capital murder.

Hastings drove the family minivan to return a RedBox video rental before Sunday evening services on Oct. 11, 2015. She would never make it to church and was found one day later dead outside the van with stab and slash wounds to her neck.

DNA at the scene matched Cochran's in a national database from a 2014 sexual assault case in Texarkana. Cochran was acquitted, but what happened then was similar to the facts in Hastings’ abduction and violence against her body.

 “Because it was such a tragic event it was one that was considered immediately for the death penalty,” said Kenall Castello, a former assistant prosecutor at the time of Hastings’ killing.

But the death penalty is no longer an option because Cochran was diagnosed with an intellectual disability. If he's found guilty, it’s life without parole.

Criminal defense attorney Barry Sorrels, who is not involved in the case, has an idea what the defense strategy will look like.

“At trial you’re trying to figure out how to get a lesser included offense based upon the evidence that would create the possibility of a range of punishment,” Costello said.

A major obstacle for the defense is that Cochran's DNA was mixed with Hastings’ at the crime scene.

“Maybe they knew each other and that’s why there's DNA involved in the case and not because there’s some kind of foul play,” Costello said.

Jurors will have to decide if the evidence and hard to listen to facts stack up with the story prosecutors tell.

“There’s really no question that an unbelievably tragic event occurred,” Costello said. “The question for this jury is do we have the right person that committed this offense.”

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