Police say they’ve found the motive in a murder that left one man dead and four children fatherless. Officials allege that Maria Hernandez, 33, had been caught cheating on her husband, Enrique Hernandez, 43, who threatened to take custody of the couple’s kids. That’s when Maria Hernandez allegedly sent for her brother, Hector Gutierrez, 22, of California, to help kill him. On the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, 2015 Maria, Enrique and their four children had left their home in Idaho and were on vacation in Las Vegas, Nevada, where they had attending a quinceañera birthday celebration with family members.
The following Monday, two assault cases led police to police to charge Maria Hernandez and her brother Hector Gutierrez with murder. Maria called allegedly called 9-1-1 saying that her husband had been assaulted with an axe by a stranger. The couple’s children were not in the car. A few hours later, her brother Hector checked into a hospital with a stab wound, claiming that he’d been assaulted by a robber. That’s when police reportedly found a trail of blood leading from Hector’s car to the place where he apparently dumped Enrique Hernandez’ body.
Police say that the “stranger” was actually Enrique, who defended himself against Hector by stabbing him with a knife, and that they “robber” was Hector, who assaulted Enrique when he and Maria pulled over to check something that appeared to be wrong with their minivan. Prosecutors say that Maria wired $800 dollars from a Wal-Mart to Hector days before her husband’s death in order to pay for his transportation and living expenses. Maria initially denied all charges against her and said that the money was for Hector’s living expenses. Both Maria and Hector have changed their stories with authorities.
With a trial date set for June 22, prosecutors are deciding whether or not to seek the death penalty in the case. The siblings are being held without bail on charges of murder and conspiracy. Maria Hernandez’ lawyer plans to plead not guilty.
Hector Gutierrez confessed to helping kill his brother-in-law out of a sense of obligation to help his sister, police say. He was riding in the minivan with the couple when Maria allegedly pointed to a hatchet she had tucked in the back seat.
Maria Hernandez — who is also named as Maria Olga Gutierrez in some court documents — also recanted her story about the stranger, saying that she had planned the attack. It’s not immediately clear how she will defend herself with a not-guilty plea. However, according to the Las Vegas Sun, Maria says her husband was abusive. She also claimed that she had changed her mind and decided to not carry out the plan.
Allegedly, when Enrique discovered her infidelity, he hired a man to beat up her lover. He also threatened to take sole custody of the couple’s four children, which compelled Maria to hatch her plan, according to police. According to Maria, the plot followed years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse by Enrique. It’s not clear that she ever reported that abuse to authorities in Idaho.