Trial set in gay man’s 2008 murder

After three years of delays, Seth Winder will be tried next week for  Richard Hernandez’s murder

hernandez.Richard

Richard Hernandez

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

DENTON — More than three years after gay Dallas resident Richard Hernandez disappeared, his accused killer is set to stand trial next week.

Authorities believe the 38-year-old Hernandez was murdered and dismembered inside his Far North Dallas apartment in early September 2008, but they never found his remains.

Seth Lawton Winder, 32, is charged with first-degree murder and faces up to life in prison.

Winder’s trial has been delayed numerous times, but Jamie Beck, first assistant district attorney for Denton County, said this week she’s confident it will go forward next week, with jury selection set for Monday, Nov. 14.

“Everybody wants a swifter and quicker justice, but you’ve got to do it right,” Beck said, referring to the delays. “Bottom line, we want justice, so if that means it takes a while, then so be it.”

Rudy Araiza, who was a close friend of Hernandez’s and is also gay, said he’s looking forward to Winder’s trial.

“I hope that we get justice finally after three years of waiting,” Araiza said. “For me it’ll be, I hope, closure.”

Araiza said he hopes Winder receives the maximum sentence of life in prison.

“Just as long as he’s away and out of the public view, and away where he won’t be able to hurt anyone else,” Araiza said.

Winder’s father, Rodney Winder, agreed, saying he wants “justice served and Seth away where he cannot hurt anyone.”

Rodney Winder and his wife, Karen Dilbeck, have said they repeatedly tried to get help for Seth, who suffers from schizophrenia, in the months prior to Hernandez’s murder. Dilbeck would later publish a book about the case, which was also the subject of an episode of A&E’s The First 48.

A judge initially found Seth Winder incompetent to stand trial, but he’s since been restored to competency.

It’s unclear what type of relationship existed between Hernandez and Winder. But police recovered a digital camera containing pornographic images of Winder that were taken inside Hernandez’s apartment.

When Hernandez failed to show up at his job at Wal-Mart, authorities went to the apartment on Rosemeade Parkway and discovered large amounts of blood on the floor, walls and couch — in addition to tissue from internal organs in the bathtub.

Police concluded that Winder placed the rest of Hernandez’s remains in a Dumpster, which had already been emptied and its contents buried in a landfill.

Purchases made on Hernandez’s debit card led police to Winder. They found blood-covered evidence including a sword at two campsites where Winder had been staying.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

‘Like a broken record,’ trial again delayed in gay Dallas resident Richard Hernandez’s 2008 murder

Richard Hernandez, left, and Seth Winder

If and when Richard Hernandez’s accused killer stands trial, it will be more than three years after the gay Dallas resident’s murder and dismemberment.

The trial of Seth Lawton Winder, charged with first-degree murder in Hernandez’s September 2008 slaying, has again been delayed — this time till October, according to Denton County online court records. The trial was scheduled to begin May 23, but a judge reportedly has granted yet another continuance.

We’ve got calls in to Jamie Beck, first assistant district attorney for Denton County, as well as Derek A. Adame, Winder’s court-appointed attorney. And we’ll update when we hear back. But for now, we spoke with Hernandez’s close friend, Rudy Araiza, who noted that this marks the fifth time the trial has been rescheduled.

“You can imagine how frustrating that is for me,” Araiza said of the latest continuance. “They’ve already had so many. When something like this lingers around, it’s like a broken record that you hear over and over again, and eventually you don’t want to hear it anymore. It just brings more pain than a happy ending. You’re at the mercy of the judicial system.”

Winder’s trial is now set for Oct. 3.

UPDATE: We heard back from Beck in the DA’s office, who says the prosecution requested the continuance. Here’s her explanation:

“About once a year we move prosecutors from one court to another, and they take over all court’s files that were previously there but are new to them,” Beck said. “Seth Winder’s case is a very serious case in our office, and with a prosecutor just getting the file, after he looked through it, he felt that it needed more attention, that there was some stuff that wasn’t in admissable form yet, and he wanted to take his time to get it ready the way he wanted to. And we have to trust him, he’s done most of our high-profile murder cases and recently just a won a conviction in a case with no body, which as in Winder’s case there’s no true body, so we feel he’s the best man for the job and he needed more time. It probably would have been sooner than October, but that was just the court’s docket. So yes, we delayed it, this one’s completely on us, but we think it’s the right thing to do.”

—  John Wright

Trial delayed another 4 months in gay Dallas man’s 2008 murder, dismemberment

Seth Winder

Last week we told you the trial of Seth Winder, who’s charged with first-degree murder in the September 2008 dismemberment of gay Dallas resident Richard Hernandez — was scheduled to go forward this month, on Jan. 24.

We also told you that the Denton County District Attorney’s Office, which is handling the case, was a little skeptical about the trial date because jail records showed that Winder’s defense attorney, Derek Adame, hadn’t visited his client recently.

Well, according to Denton County court records, the trial has now been pushed back until May 23. That’s a delay of four additional months. If Winder’s trial goes forward on May 24, it will have been more than 2 ½ years since Hernandez’s murder. But at this point, we’d say that’s a pretty big “if.”

Neither prosecutors nor Adame could immediately be reached for comment.

—  John Wright

Trial in gay Dallas man’s murder set for Jan. 24, but DA’s office warns that’s ‘subject to change’

Seth Winder

We received a message Monday from Karen Winder, the stepmother of Seth Winder, who’s awaiting trial on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Richard Hernandez, a gay man from Dallas who was brutally dismembered in September 2008.

Karen Winder, who wrote a book about the case, was wondering if we’d heard whether the trial — which has been repeatedly delayed for a variety of reasons — is expected to go forward as scheduled on Jan. 24.

“The prosector has never responded to me and [defense attorney Derek] Adame won’t talk to Rodney [Seth's father] or me and we have tried to contact him by phone and e-mail in the past,” Karen Winder wrote. “I could try to call his office again, but I doubt he will talk to us, though he talks to Seth’s mother.”

In response to Winder’s message, we contacted Jamie Beck, first assistant district attorney for Denton County, where the crime occurred. Here’s what Beck said:

“It is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 24, that week. Voir dire would probably be most of the day Monday, with testimony likely to begin Tuesday the 25th,” Beck said. “We are prepared to have that as an official trial date. However, those are always subject to change, and the reason why I have a little bit of hesitation this time, is because we’re able to access the visitation log at the jail, and his attorney has not been to see him in quite some time. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything — they can communicate in other fashions — but we’re just a little skeptical about his readiness for trial here in just a couple of weeks. But, we’re planning to go. There’s been no motion for a continuance filed at this point in time, and certainly none ruled on. So as of right now, it is a solid trial date. That’s always subject to change, and that’s the best I can give you right now.”

We’ve left a message for Adame and we’ll update once we hear back.

—  John Wright

Gay murder victim Richard Hernandez’s friend to launch website documenting ‘delay of justice’

Victim Richard Hernandez, left, and suspect Seth Lawton Winder

While we’re on the subject of local gay murder victims whose friends want to see justice, we thought we’d let you know about a note we received this morning from one Rudy Araiza.

Araiza was close friends with Richard Hernandez, who was murdered and dismembered at his apartment in Far North Dallas more than two years ago, in September 2008. Seth Lawton Winder is charged with first-degree murder in Hernandez’s slaying and is awaiting a trial that’s been postponed several times. According to the Denton County District Attorney’s Office, Winder’s case is now set for trial in late January.

We aren’t sure whether Araiza, Hernandez’s friend, was inspired by the actions of Lisa Stone’s friends, but he wrote to inquire about obtaining copies of Dallas Voice articles on the murder, because he’s interested in launching a website. Here’s part of what he said:

“I want to start a Richard Hernandez Justice website to keep journals and updates on his delay of Justice! As we leave 2010 and into 2011, we are still in suspense mode waiting to hear, or see ‘Justice’ happen here from delay after delay of Seth Winder. I had a dream the other night, and in my dream Richard was there, in a place where Happiness and Life were the heavens. I was extremely angry with him and told him that he left a lot of people with heavy hearts, he said that everything was going to be okay, and that he was watching over us. It was a typical answer that only Richard would have said to me, which let me know that he was happy and right! It sounds crazy, but I woke up knowing and feeling good inside knowing that Richard for a mere 5 minutes was having a conversation with me. My heart believes that he knows what’s going on, and  he knows Justice will come soon.”

—  John Wright

Mother of gay murder victim Richard Hernandez dies without seeing justice for her son’s death

Richard Hernandez

A few weeks ago Rudy Araiza, who was a close friend of gay Dallas murder victim Richard Hernandez’s, voiced his frustration over continued delays in the prosecution of Hernandez’s accused killer, Seth Lawton Winder. Today, Araiza sends along word that Hernandez’s mother has passed away:

“Well I’m witting this letter to just reach out to you and inform you that it’s a terrible thing when your son’s passing is still at a point where no justice has been made for going on two years. And in your own life (Richard’s mom) you are struggling with pain, sadness, emptiness and health problems that don’t make it any easier to live with, until one day you die. Only to never really understand or find the justice you wanted for your son, yourself, friends or family, and having so much on your plate. Mary Garcia Hernandez passed away Monday, Aug. 23, 2010 from health issues she was dealing with. I can only pray to God and thank Him for not making her suffer anymore. Now in my heart I know that although she was suffering from the loss of her oldest son, and her health, that God will bring them together in the heavens above. I pray that her family will one day come to see the light from all this tragedy that has happened within a two year time span, and that we hold together and send a prayer out to them for all their grief.”

Sincerely,

Rudy Araiza

—  John Wright

Letters • 08.13.10

Justice postponed

I’m writing because I heard that Seth Winder’s trial for the murder of Richard Hernandez has been postponed again. I really don’t understand why.

Now consider this: Had it been me, a gay man, who had committed a terrible crime like this against a straight man, I bet you my life that I’d be on trial next week without any disruption or thought of postponement.

This is the justice system in the United States; just postpone their trial and let them walk away free, and forget about how this one person changed so many people’s lives.

It’s a sad and very hurtful chain of events to know that after almost two years of this circus, the people in Richard’s life can’t rest in peace either. At a certain point, you begin to feel that maybe we  should be judge and jury, and then this whole thing would be put to rest — including Seth Winder.

Rudy Araiza
Arlington

Italy becoming unsafe

Dear friends: We would like to raise your attention on the recent increase of homophobia in Italy.

Every day, we are seeing a growing number of hate crimes being committed against people because of their sexual orientation and their gender identity. In the last two months, Arcigay recorded an exponential number of cases all over the country of lesbian and gay people and couples being threatened, assaulted or exposed to public ridicule just because they were walking hand in hand, kissing or standing outside LGBT bars.

Recently, in Ostia, a seaside town near Rome, a gay couple was forced out of a beach resort after other people complained that they were kissing. In Milan, in the last month alone, our local branch recorded five assaults on gay people who were attacked and beaten only because they were standing outside LGBT bars or public spaces where they meet.

In two other circumstances, a homosexual couple in Torre del Lago in Tuscany and another one in Cagliari in Sardinia were just kissing on the beach and were targeted. Passers-by threatened to call the police if they didn’t stop. In another incident, two young gay people were assaulted and beaten outside a gay bar in Pesaro in an attack that required medical treatment.

Together with the increasing homophobia, LGBT bars and pubs throughout the country are also systematically harassed with unreasonable controls and exposed to constant and obsessive audits by different authorities.

Outdoor venues where gay people usually meet are sifted by the local police or fenced or even closed down by local authorities, who use as a pretext that homosexual people meeting there are “immoral.”

For example, this has happened at the Piave Spresiano riverside in Padova, where the town’s mayor has agreed to create “groups of volunteers” to patrol the venue, and has said that homosexuals are sick; and on the Oglio a Soncino riverside in Cremona, where the police have been asked to raid the place; and again at two other beaches, in Gaeta in Latina and Ancona, where local authorities have installed fences and CCTV cameras to prevent gay encounters.

LGBT people in Italy are beginning to live in an intolerable climate of fear, reminiscent of a witch hunt. This is a country where not only the rights of LGBT couples are not recognized — despite a recent Constitutional Court ruling — but, more alarming, a country where the Parliament rejected a bill that contained measures to fight homophobia stating in writing that the very expression “sexual orientation” is in itself “ambiguous,” as it could include things like pedophilia, zoophilia, necrophilia and incest.

We ask for your help to raise these concerns with the Italian government and other institutions. Italy has never been a country where LGBT people have been treated equally, but now it is beginning to be even more unsafe for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people.

Maurizio Cecconi
Arcigay, International Affairs

Arcigay is Italy’s largest LGBT rights organization. Founded in 1985, the organization had more than 160,000 members as of 2007.

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Seth Winder’s murder trial again delayed

Richard Hernandez

A murder trial for Seth Lawton Winder, who’s accused of the killing and dismemberment of gay Dallas resident Richard Hernandez in 2008, has again been pushed back, according to the Denton County District Attorney’s Office.

Winder, who’s charged with first-degree murder in Hernandez’s death, was scheduled to go on trial beginning Monday, Aug. 16.

But Jamie Beck, first assistant district attorney for Denton County, said the trial will be delayed because a new judge was recently sworn in for the 367th District Court, where the case is assigned. Margaret Barnes, previously a county court judge, replaced Lee Gabriel, who was appointed to the Fort Worth appeals court.

“She’s never had any criminal experience, and we do not want her first jury trial to be our murder case,” Beck said of Barnes. “We don’t want trial by fire for her. We want to get her started off with some other types of crimes other than murder.”

Asked when she thinks Winder’s trial will go forward, Beck said, “I’m very hopeful that it will be this year, but I can’t guarantee that.”

The trial was delayed in May by publication of a book about the case written by Winder’s father’s girlfriend. But Beck said issues related to the book have been resolved.

—  John Wright

Trial in gay Dallas man's murder again delayed, this time by publication of book about case

Richard Hernandez
Richard Hernandez

Earlier this month I reported that Karen Dilbeck, the girlfriend of Seth Winder’s father, had written a book about Seth, who’s accused of the brutal slaying and dismemberment of gay Dallas resident Richard Hernandez in 2008. I also reported that Winder’s first-degree murder trial, long delayed due to competency issues, was finally scheduled to go forward in early May.

Well now it appears as though publication of Dilbeck’s book, “Slipping Into Madness: The Seth Winder Story,” has further delayed Winder’s trial, which has been pushed back until August to give the prosecution and defense a chance to review the manuscript.

“Mr. Winder, the defendant, his dad’s girlfriend wrote a book on the case. We did not know that until last week, and so we’ve ordered the book, and both the defense and the state will be reading the book,” said Jamie Beck, first assistant criminal district attorney for Denton County, which includes the area of Far North Dallas where the murder occurred. “I think there were a couple of other variables [contributing to the delay], but that was the big one, because she’d interviewed the defendant and his dad, so everybody needed that information. It could be inculpatory, it could be exculpatory, it could be both.”

—  John Wright

Trial set for May in brutal 2008 murder of gay Dallas man Richard Hernandez

madcvr

Karen Read Dilbeck, the girlfriend of Seth Winder’s father, has published a book about Winder, who’s accused of murdering gay Dallas man Richard Hernandez in September 2008. Hernandez was brutally dismembered in his far North Dallas apartment, and the ensuing manhunt for Winder by Dallas police has already been the subject of an episode of A&E’s “The First 48.” Winder was initially found mentally incompetent to stand trial, but his competency reportedly been restored, and a trial is now set for early May, according to Denton County court records (although Dilbeck predicts the trial will again be delayed). Here’s what she told me in an e-mail about the book, “Slipping into Madness: The Seth Winder Story”:

“My part was written like I would have done as a reporter basically with lots of commentary form Rodney [Seth Winder's father] and then lots of information about schizophrenia. My desire was to point out our flawed system here.  I write to Seth in jail and I believe he really is truly schizophrenic. What triggered him to kill Richard, we’ll never know, but I truly think it was a cry of insanity. Of course I feel so much sorrow for it all. My desire in writing this book was to possibly help prevent such tragedies in the future. Richard tried to befriend the wrong person and probably just did not realize the depth of sickness in Seth. … Everyone likes to speculate on things without knowing the background of someone, but I know what I saw long before he killed Richard and he was definitely mentally ill.”

—  John Wright