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Sunday, February 04, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Youth pastor convicted of slaying pregnant girlfriend

A Bexar County, Texas, jury this morning convicted a former youth minister of capital murder in the deaths of his 17-year-old pregnant girlfriend and their unborn child.

Jurors in the 226th District Court took about an hour and 15 minutes to find Adrian Estrada, 24, guilty of capital murder in the Dec. 12, 2005, choking and stabbing death of Stephanie Sanchez.

Estrada, a former youth pastor at El Sendero Assembly of God church, showed no emotion when the verdict was read.

He faces either the death penalty or life in prison without parole. The punishment phase of his trial is set to begin Tuesday.

Sanchez's body was found on the kitchen floor of her family's West Side home. She was about three months pregnant at the time of her death, and DNA evidence showed Estrada was the father. Estrada was arrested the following day after he admitted to stabbing the teen.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys this morning presented their closing arguments.

In her closing statements, prosecutor Kirsta Melton told jurors that immediately after the slayings, the defendant went to exercise at a local gym and then went to Wal-Mart. "The man was picking out clothes while his girlfriend and his child bled to death on the kitchen floor," Melton said.

"Two lives, two futures, destroyed by one man -- Adrian Estrada," Melton said.

The prosecution asked that jurors find him guilty of capital murder for both deaths. The defense asked that jurors consider lesser charges of murder in Sanchez' death and manslaughter in the death of the fetus.

Defense attorney Suzanne Kramer argued there was no evidence that Estrada went to the home with the intent to kill anyone or that he had a weapon when he arrived at the house.

Kramer said there is evidence, however, that an altercation occurred inside the home, and it's possible that Sanchez came at him with a knife until Estrada took it away.

"We will not argue (the killing) was in self-defense," Kramer told jurors. "I think it will insult your intelligence. I think it's obvious whatever happened was emotions gone awry."