72-year-old woman faces hate crime enhancement for choking gay neighbor

Wanda Derby

A Richland Hills woman has been indicted for the assault of her gay neighbor after she allegedly beat and choked him with her cane while screaming “faggot” back in March.

Wanda Jena Derby, 72, became upset when her adult son began moving in with neighbor Lloyd Guerrero and his family on March 28, Richland Hills police Detective Tye Bell said previously. She allegedly approached Guerrero and beat him with her cane, yelling “faggot” and trying to choke him.

Bell said Derby told police she was afraid Guerrero would give her son AIDS because he was gay.

Guerrero suffered bruises to his body and neck but was treated at the scene by police.

Derby was initially charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony, but was indicted Sept. 14 on a charge of assault causing bodily injury, a Class-A misdemeanor.

Christopher McGregor, the assistant district attorney assigned to the case, said Derby’s case was presented to the grand jury as a felony, but they returned it as a misdemeanor indictment.

McGregor said the language in the indictment was used to try to convince a jury that the assault was a hate crime, which could increase Derby’s sentence.

According to the indictment, Derby caused bodily injury to Guerrero “by hitting him with a cane or by hitting him with her hand, or by pinning his neck to a wall with a cane.”

The indictment also states that Derby “intentionally selected Lloyd Guerrero as the victim of the offense” because of her “bias or prejudice against a person or a group, namely: Homosexuals.”

Texas’ hate crimes statute doesn’t allow a misdemeanor to be enhanced to a felony, but would require a minimum of 180 days in jail. Punishment for a Class A misdemeanor is up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine, according to the Texas Penal Code.

Derby faces another misdemeanor assault charge for allegedly striking Guerrero’s mother when she tried to intervene in the attack. A pre-trial conference for both cases is scheduled for Oct. 31.

Guerrero told Instant Tea that he’s healed emotionally since the March assault and no longer harbors angry feelings toward Derby. He and his family moved out of the apartment complex within a week of the attack, he said.

He said 180 days in jail as a minimum punishment if Derby is convicted is a good thing, and he agrees that amount of time is enough for justice to be served and Derby to learn her lesson.

“Even though she did something terrible, people make mistakes. It’s not something she should ever be happy about,” he said. “I’m to the point where I can forgive her.”

Guerrero is focusing on getting his Project: Blue Voice organization classified as a nonprofit. He started the group after his hate crime attack to share the stories of others who have been attacked for being who they are. He said he’s already planning to visit schools in the coming months to start a dialogue about hate and bullying.

—  Dallasvoice