FROM STAFF REPORTS
LLANO — A Llano County jury didn’t buy a 48-year-old defendant’s “battered woman” claim as a reason for killing 23-year-old Jose Mario Hernandez in Kingsland in August 2014. Instead, the jury on July 25 found Kathryn Louise Preston guilty of murder after a trial that lasted more than a week.
The same jury recommended a sentence of 45 years in prison.
On Aug. 26, 2014, Llano County sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call in the 200 block of McGee Trail in Kingsland in regards to a deceased male. When deputies arrived, they found Hernandez’s body lying on the floor next to a bed. At the time, Preston told investigators that Hernandez, who lived with her, had abused her and had hit his head on a rock or a brick, according to a probable cause for arrest document.
Authorities charged her with murder after her arrest that day.
During the trial in State District Judge Evan Stubbs’ courtroom, which began July 19, Llano County Assistant District Attorney Anthony Dodson said evidence clearly contradicted the defendant’s claims.
Dodson pointed out there was “disturbance” of the crime scene but said the defendant didn’t call 911 until approximately 15½ hours after Hernandez’s death. Officials estimate the victim died at about 4 p.m. Aug. 25. Preston didn’t reported his death until about 9:20 a.m. the following day, though she lived at the home with Hernandez.
Prosecutors also presented evidence that Preston confided with a family member she had struck the victim with a brick, but that hadn’t actually killed him, so she suffocated him with a pillow.
Dodson added that all the evidence investigators and crime scene experts collected at the scene led to the conclusion that Hernandez was likely lying in bed and asleep when Preston initially struck him with a brick. And once he was dead, Preston then attempted to burn the body.
“Thirty percent of his body was burned,” Dodson said.
Throughout the investigation, Dodson said investigators uncovered no evidence that Hernandez ever struck or physically assaulted the defendant. Prosecutors also presented DNA evidence linking Preston to the crime scene.
In the end, the jury deliberated for several hours before finding her guilty and then, after the punishment phase, deliberated again before rendering the 45-year verdict.
Stubbs then sentenced Preston to 45 years in prison.
Dobson praised the efforts of all the investigators and the district attorney staff for the work they did on the case. He also acknowledged Jose Hernandez’s family, with whom he had been working alongside since the death.
“Also, for the Hernandez family, who I’ve really come to love and appreciate over the last couple of years in dealing with them in all of this, just our hope that there’s a sense of closure in this and they’re going to go on with the rest of their lives very successfully,” Dodson added.