A man and woman accused of shooting 18-year-old Hope DeHart in a west Fort Worth motel room, then dumping her body off a dead-end road under the mistaken belief that she was dead, are headed to prison after reaching plea deals in the case.
Joan “Mandy” Ashley Garcia, 32, pleaded guilty Thursday to tampering with physical evidence in exchange for a 15-year prison sentence.
Hernaldo “David” Gonzales, 32, had pleaded guilty to the same charge last month in exchange for a 10-year prison sentence. He is being transferred this week from the Tarrant County Jail to prison.
Both were initially charged with aggravated assault, accused of shooting Hope in the head in a Comfort Suites motel room off Loop 820, then dumping her body next to the Quik Trip in the 3100 block of Golden Triangle Boulevard.
Two truckers spotted Hope’s body and alerted authorities, including paramedics who were parked at the Quik Trip waiting for their next call. In what many have described as a miracle, Hope survived.
Paige DeHart, Hope’s mother, said while the family wanted longer prison sentences, she was grateful they were spared having to endure a full trial.
She said her daughter addressed both Gonzales and Garcia during their sentencing hearings.
“He cried his eyes out the whole time and kept telling the DA to tell us how sorry he was,” Paige DeHart said.
Samuel Terry, Gonzales’s defense attorney, called Hope’s comments and his client’s reaction a “very moving moment.”
“She said she forgave David. David was a complete emotional train wreck. He was truly sorry. She was a friend of his. They knew each other.
“From day one, he had been very hard on himself,” Terry added. “He did not want to go through any trial. He said, ‘Just put me away. I can’t believe I did this.’ ”
Gonzales contends that Hope was accidentally shot by Garcia inside the motel room as the woman played with a gun, Terry said. Garcia blames the shooting on Gonzales, her attorney said.
Terry said drugs and alcohol were involved.
Terry said he believes tampering with evidence was the more appropriate charge.
“The shooting, at least from David’s standpoint, was truly an accident,” Terry said. “At that point, decisions were made and they were not the best choices — they were horrible choices. Luckily, Hope made it through.”
Paige DeHart said while she believed Gonzales was remorseful, she described Garcia’s “lack of decency” at Thursday’s hearing as “appalling.”
“When Hope began by telling her that she did not believe that it was an accident, Mandy rolled her eyes at her and also laughed through Hope’s statement,” Paige DeHart said. “Hope took the high road and told her that she hopes that she used her time in prison to get her life together for the sake of her children.”
Eric Cummings, Garcia’s defense attorney, declined to comment on the plea deal Friday without further discussions with his client. But he denied that his client laughed or acted disrespectfully during Hope’s statement.
“I think it was just a misinterpretation that she thought my client rolled her eyes, and it went downhill from there,” he said.
Since the shooting, Hope has been focused on her efforts to overcome the drug addiction that brought her and the suspects together that August day in 2015, and she has talked openly about it.