Punishment phase begins in Dallas dentist's murder trial

A Dallas County jury returned to work to decide if a man will spend his life in prison or face execution for pulling the trigger in a murder-for-hire plot.

Kristopher Love was convicted last week of capital murder for the death of Kendra Hatcher, a pediatric dentist in Dallas.

Prosecutors said the 34-year-old was hired to shoot and kill Hatcher inside the parking garage at her Uptown Dallas high-rise apartment complex in 2015. The plan was orchestrated by Brenda Delgado because Hatcher was dating her ex-boyfriend.

The woman convicted of being the getaway driver, Crystal Cortes, testified against Love. She will be sentenced to 35 years in prison in exchange for her testimony.

Delgado has not yet gone to trial for capital murder. She fled the country after the murder. As part of the extradition agreement with Mexico, she cannot be given the death penalty if convicted.

Hatcher’s sister and best friend testified on Monday and brought some jurors to tears as they spoke about the generous and unselfish woman.

Hatcher’s older sister, Ashley Turner, told jurors all five siblings grew up in a very close and loving family in a little town called Pleasant Plains outside Springfield, Illinois.  

“Kendra would spend her Christmas break and Spring Breaks traveling to… help other people,” Turner said fighting back tears.

Turner says her sister was active, ambitious and strived for excellence.

“Cheerleading. Volleyball. The National Honor Society. I believe she was president of the Thespian Society and president or vice president of the Spanish Club,” she explained.

Turners told jurors Hatcher was driven to help others and donated her time to Habitat for Humanity.

“She would go to Ecuador or to Spain to give medical treatment,” she said.

Turner says her sister became a pediatric dentist and moved to Dallas to help underprivileged children.

Hatcher was murdered just weeks before her family was to meet the man she planned to marry.

“We didn’t know that evil like this existed,” Turner said. “Kendra had no idea that she was being watched for months.”

Jurors also heard about Love’s criminal history, which includes aggravated robbery and burglary in Tennessee. A police officer from Tennessee testified that he has an outstanding warrant for felony possession of a firearm and that warrant was active when he murdered Hatcher.

Prosecutors showed text messages of Love’s life of drugs and prostitution in Dallas. They also showed several of his graphic tattoos, including one that says life or death.

With the death penalty at stake, prosecutors tried to drive home how devastating Hatcher's murder has been to her family and friends.

“To me — if you did the right things, if you lived a good life, if you are honest and kind to people — these types of things don’t happen to you,” said Tammy Pantano, Hatcher’s best friend. “And for Kendra to be murdered the way that she was murdered? There is no one safe. I don’t feel safe!”

During the trial, Love declined to take the witness stand in his own defense. His attorney also did not call any witnesses. It’s not yet clear what they have planned for the sentencing phase.

The state is seeking the death penalty for Love.

The trial will continue on Tuesday.