Donna teen sentenced to 50 years in restaurant murder

EDINBURG — A man who was 16 when he stabbed 69-year-old Arturo Hermes Hernandez 11 times, killing the man, entered a guilty plea Monday to charges of murder and attempted capital murder.

State District Judge Letty Lopez sentenced Pedro Gaspar Rocha, now 17, to 50 years in prison.

Rocha, who agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid a capital murder charge, declined to address the court at sentencing.

Rocha broke into Pollos y Costillas Asadas Estilo Veracruz in rural Donna at 3:45 a.m. on Jan. 13.

“In his recorded statement, (Rocha) indicates that immediately upon entering the business, he grabbed a large knife from on top of a refrigerator,” according to the order transferring the case from juvenile court to state district court. “While inside the restaurant, the Respondent attacked an employee of said restaurant, Arturo Hermes Hernandez, stabbing him multiple times.”

Rocha told investigators that he took “bags of coins” from the restaurant.

After attacking Hernandez, Rocha stabbed Franklin Lopez 11 times as the man slept in a small shed located behind the restaurant.

“The victim states that (Rocha) entered his room and stated in Spanish ‘así te quería pescar’ which translates ‘this is how I wanted to catch you,’” the order stated.

Lopez, who was in the courtroom along with Hernandez’s adult children Monday, was stabbed in his chest, abdomen, scalp, arm, leg and suffered acute blood loss, court documents indicate.

“Mr. Lopez suffered cardiac arrest and flat lined but was revived through administration of epinephrine injection,” the order stated.

Rocha told a doctor while in juvenile custody that he had been under the influence of ecstasy at the time of the murder and did not know what he was doing.

When the court certified Rocha as an adult earlier this year, it did so after considering his sophistication and maturity.

The order includes findings related to this that paint a picture of a troubled man with a significant worsening of pre-existing Conduct Disorder that includes disruptive behavior while in detention.

The order states that he has had more than 80 incident reports while in detention, including threats of violence, intimidation, taking food from other residents, possession of contraband and destruction of property.

He also told a doctor who evaluated him that he “would not care” if he hurt someone.

Another doctor who evaluated Rocha learned that the teen had ongoing episodes of irritability that had worsened over the past few years toward peers and police officers.

He also admitted to drinking and being hospitalized from drinking in 2016.

Rocha also said he began smoking marijuana when he was eight years old, as well as using synthetic marijuana, Benzodiazepine, Xanax, ecstasy and cocaine during his teenage years.

On Jan. 17, 2018, Rocha was adjudicated for the offenses of graffiti and burglary of a building and was sent to Juvenile Boot Camp, but he was expelled for noncompliance after obtaining 161 violations, according to the order.

In March of that year, he was sent to the Judge Ricardo H. Garcia Regional Juvenile Detention Facility and was released Nov. 3, 2018 to the custody of his father and remained on home probation.

Less than two months later, he murdered Hernandez and attacked Lopez.

Rocha must serve 25 years before he is eligible for parole.