By CHRISTIN COYNE
Avoiding a possible death penalty for the brutal killing of a Parker County grandmother in October, 29-year-old Hector Trejo pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to capital murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
Trejo was on parole at the time of the killing for a violent robbery where he and two other men were convicted of pistol-whipping a man during a September 2008 home invasion.
Trejo, who’d been released on parole about a month earlier, killed 47-year-old Linda Surginer Preston Oct. 11 when she declined to lend him her car, according to the Parker County Sheriff’s Office. He then took the car and gave a friend a ride to Fort Worth.
“The court will rest easier knowing you are in a place where you can’t hurt anybody else in Parker County,” 43rd District Judge Craig Towson told Trejo shortly after sentencing him Tuesday morning.
Trejo was the son of Preston’s landlords and had been doing some work on the house where Preston and her husband, Patrick Preston, lived.
When Preston, who was extremely weak due to a debilitating illness, did not return phone calls that day, family members went to her home that afternoon to check on her.
Her husband found her body in the living room with her neck cut.
Initial attempts to locate Trejo were unsuccessful until investigators received information from the Fort Worth Police Department the following day.
A man calling himself “Carlos Hernandez” showed up to work as a day laborer at a Fort Worth church, where he reportedly confided to a church volunteer that he had killed someone and wanted to turn himself in.
Investigators determined that “Hernandez” was Trejo and tracked him to an apartment complex in Fort Worth, where he was arrested the day after the murder, according to prosecutors.
Trejo reportedly admitted to Parker County Sheriff’s Investigator Ricky Montgomery and Texas Ranger Tony Bradford that he cut Preston’s neck with a knife while arguing with her about the vehicle.
He told investigators that he had consumed 12-13 beers and prescription pills in the hours before the killing and was intoxicated at the time of the murder.
“A capital murder case is always a challenging case,” said Assistant District Attorney Robert DuBoise, who prosecuted the case along with Assistant District Attorney Nikki Rhodes. “Texas law only permits two punishments — death and life without parole. In meeting with Linda Preston’s family to discuss these options, they expressed that one of their overriding concerns was to gain a sense of finality and to not have to suffer endless appeals and delays. This sentence gives them that finality along with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that Hector Trejo will spend the rest of his life in prison.”
Bobby Surginer, Preston’s brother, said in a victim impact statement read before Trejo and the court that Trejo’s actions affected two families, including Trejo’s family.
His actions made him “not only evil but trash to be discarded,” Surginer said, adding that his sister would have helped him if given a chance.
A death sentence would have been an easy way out, Surginer said.
“I will always think of the way she was, not how you left her,” Surginer said.
Surginer said he believed Trejo would be punished after he died, as well.
“Your actions have landed you where you belong – in hell,” Surginer said.
The day after she was killed, Preston’s first grandson was born, Surginer said, noting that he would never know his grandmother’s touch because of what Trejo did.
Preston’s husband, Patrick Preston, said he would never forget the horror that he saw when he walked into the house that day.
He’s struggled with hating Trejo, Preston said.
“I really want the same thing that happened to her, to happen to you,” Preston said.
Preston, who noted the impact that Trejo’s actions had on Trejo’s own family, urged Trejo to turn his prison sentence into something positive.
“God have mercy on your soul,” Preston said.