Mexican national gets life in student slaying

February 28, 2009 6:52:38 AM PST
A Mexican national was sentenced Friday to life in prison for raping and strangling a college student and setting her body on fire. Ernesto Reyes, 21, was convicted of capital murder and received an automatic life prison sentence in the 2007 killing of Melanie Goodwin, 19, a University of North Texas sophomore.

Goodwin, of Arlington, was found dead behind an office building in Carrollton, a Dallas suburb.

Reyes, a Mexican immigrant who was in the United States legally, fled to his homeland after the murder. U.S. marshals arrested him a month later as he left a relative's home about 200 miles north of Mexico City.

Mexican authorities agreed to release Reyes to Texas prosecutors only if they pledged not to seek the death penalty.

Earlier Friday during deliberations, jurors asked to see video footage from the Denton convenience store where Reyes and Goodwin met when he asked her for a ride, The Dallas Morning News reported in its Friday online edition. Authorities have said the two did not know each other.

Other evidence presented by the prosecution during the trial was video images from a surveillance camera outside the Carrollton office building -- what prosecutors said was Reyes dragging Goodwin's body out of her car and setting it on fire. The videotape also showed him returning for a gas can and disappearing into the woods before a huge explosion lit up the night sky.

During the trial, the defense did not call any witnesses.

During closing arguments defense attorneys urged the jury to find Reyes innocent, saying the state failed to account for an hour and a half of Reyes' time on the night Goodwin died.

But prosecutor Andrea Handley said that 90-minute period was when he was raping and killing the teen.

Handley said she was disappointed that authorities could not seek the death penalty against Reyes, but being able to try him in Texas was better than leaving him in Mexico.

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