Crime

Forest Hill man sentenced to 35 years for drive-by killing mother of five in Fort Worth

Fighting back tears in Criminal District Court No. 2, Josie DeLeon held a single sheet of paper in her hands Tuesday morning and faced the killer of her 22-year-old daughter, who was the mother of five.

“Victoria is truly missed, “ DeLeon said wiping away tears as she addressed convicted murderer Nathan Leal. “Tears are every day.”

Leal, 21, of Forest Hill, was the gunman who opened fire into a Fort Worth home in September 2017, killing Victoria DeLeon as she slept with her five children.

Josie DeLeon talked about her daughter whose whole world were her five kids, who would never see her kids grow up and whose voice would never be heard again.

Quiet cries filled the courtroom as friends and members of the DeLeon family fought through Josie DeLeon’s statements..

Leal showed no emotion Tuesday while Josie DeLeon spoke to him. A group of his friends and family members attended the sentencing hearing.

Just minutes before DeLeon spoke about her daughter, State District Judge Wayne Salvant sentenced Leal to 35 years in prison for killing Victoria DeLeon. Leal also got seven years each for two counts of aggravated assault in the shooting. The sentences will be served concurrently.

A trial is pending for a second suspect, Jose Cruz Diaz, 21, of Forest Hill, also known as “Joey Cruz” and “Chips,” who was arrested in October 2017. Diaz allegedly headed up the drive-by shooting that left the mother of five dead.

After DeLeon’s emotional statements, Leal left the courtroom, but he returned when family members asked to visit with him before he headed to prison. DeLeon’s family had already left the courtroom.

“It’s a tragedy because all involved were young,” said Jonathan Simpson of Fort Worth, Leal’s attorney, after the sentencing.

One by one, friends and family members gave Leal a hug and words of encouragement.

“I love you all,” Leal said. “I will be out soon.”

Court documents indicate Diaz and Leal, then 19, had gone to a home in the 2700 block of Burchill Road early Sept. 9, 2017, because they were upset that a resident of the home had earlier shot at a group at a nearby park.

Investigators believe Diaz, a passenger in the front of the truck, directed the driver to the home on Burchill Road, told him where to park and instructed him to turn off his headlights. They suspect he also told Leal to get out of the truck and open fire on the house.

The man with whom they were angry was not at home. Instead, the man’s girlfriend, Victoria DeLeon, was sleeping with her five children — the youngest on her chest — inside the bedroom struck by the bullets.

Victoria DeLeon carried her baby to relatives in the living room, collapsed and later died at the hospital, police have said.

“Jose Cruz Diaz is responsible for the murder of Victoria DeLeon due to the fact that he gave specific instructions to (the driver) about how to get to the location, where to park and what to do once he was parked at the location,” homicide Detective E. Pate wrote in an arrest warrant affidavit. “Jose also told Nathan Leal that he wanted him to shoot the house … .”

Leal was arrested in October 2017 in Sacramento, California, where he had moved in the weeks after the shooting. Police say he confessed but insisted he only meant to shoot up the house, not kill anyone inside.

“You don’t realize what you took away,” Josie DeLeon said in her statement. “I’ll forgive you one day.”

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