The Jusitce Journal: Vol. 42

The Justice Journal: Vol. 42

A look at cases recently prosecuted by the Dallas County Criminal District Attorney's Office.

The Justice Journal

State vs. Lisa Jo Dykes


Tampering with a Human Corpse

Lead: Robin Pittman

2nd Chair: Zack Brown

DA Investigator: Martin Bosse (with many others assisting)

DA Victim Advocate: Melinda Shelton

Investigating Agency: Dallas Police Department, FBI, Dallas Sheriff’s Office, Mesquite Police, Midlothian Police, New York State Police, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Miami-Dade Police, Organ County Sheriff’s Department, US Marshals Service, West Jordan Police, FBI Legal Attache for Cambodia and her taskforce with the State and Local law enforcement officers in Cambodia


Marisela Botello-Valadez flew from Seattle to Dallas to visit a friend the weekend of October 2, 2020. On October 4, 2020, the friend Marisela was with in Dallas lost the keys to his house and became sick. Marisela then took a Lyft back out to Deep Ellum alone to enjoy her last night in Dallas. Shortly after she arrived in Deep Ellum, she met a man named Charles Beltran, AKA Chuck, and the two hit it off quickly and went back to his car to continue talking. They eventually left Deep Ellum to head back to the home Charles Beltran shared with Lisa Dykes and Nina Marano in Mesquite, Texas. The two stopped at a 7/11 where Marisela purchased a couple of sodas and the two left. Marisela’s phone data stopped around 8 AM on October 5, 20520, at the Kensington Drive home in Mesquite.


While Marisela and Charles Beltran were asleep in the early hours of October 5, 2020, Lisa Dykes entered the room and straddled Marisela and began to stab her. Charles Beltran woke up to cries for help and saw Lisa Dykes coming back down with the knife and shoved her off the bed and attempted to separate the two. Lisa Dykes told Charles Beltran “I told you not to bring any more girls over here. Why are you disrespecting us? You need to get your little <expletive> and leave now.” At that time, Charles Beltran turned back to see a lifeless Marisela lying back on the bed. He then left the room, washed his hands and splashed water on his face before re-entering the room to see if what he witnessed was true. When he returned, his testimony is that he was going to call 9-1-1 but Lisa Dykes talked him out of it, so he told her to “take care of it” and then got Nina Marano to come assist Lisa Dykes, at Dykes’ request, before he fled the home.


That same day, Lisa Dykes called into work, and then later that evening both her phone and Nina Marano’s phone ping in Wilmer, Texas, where Marisela’s remains were ultimately found some six months later. The location where Marisela’s remains were found was also less than 2 miles from Lisa Dykes’ previous home.


Lisa Dykes, Nina Marano, and Charles Beltran all then began to take steps to avoid law enforcement and being connected with this murder. Lisa Dykes lied to the FBI the week after the murder about Charles Beltran, while Nina Marano called her neighbor realtor in Pennsylvania to urgently list her Pennsylvania home the week news articles began to circulate about Marisela’s disappearance. The black Audi that Charles Beltran used to drive Marisela back to the Kensington home that Lisa Dykes had purchased for him was shipped from Dallas to Pennsylvania and then sold in New York, however, law enforcement was able to stop the sale and seize and process the car from the dealership. Even though Lisa Dykes had just renewed her lease on the Kensington home in Mesquite on October 1st – the home appeared abandoned by the time Dallas Police Department executed a search warrant at the residence on October 31, 2020. When the Dallas Police Department executed a second search warrant on the home in December of 2020, the home was completely cleaned out, however, they were able to locate several areas in the home that had presumptive positive tests for the presence of blood. One of which came back to match the DNA of Marisela.


From October 2020 until their arrests in late March and early April 2021, Lisa Dykes, Nina Marano, and Charles Beltran spent time moving between Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New York, Mexico, Florida, and Utah. March 25, 2021, Nina Marano was arrested outside of her Miami apartment after coordinated surveillance efforts between the Dallas Police Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. During that arrest, Lisa Dykes ran from the apartment and called family for money to take a Uber/Lyft/Taxi to Orlando where she was arrested after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement tracked her cellphone activity and located her purchasing a new cellphone in an Orlando mall on March 26, 2020. Subsequent phone extractions pursuant to search warrants on that new phone showed that Lisa Dykes was texting identifying this phone as her “burner” phone and making plans to get out of Florida quickly, making plans to meet up with Charles Beltran, and attempting to get access to Nina Marano’s money since she was now in jail. Charles Beltran was arrested days later in Utah with the help of coordinated efforts between the Dallas Police Department, the US Marshals Service, and West Jordan Police Department in Utah.


After Lisa Dykes, Nina Marano, and Charles Beltran were all extradited to Dallas County, Lisa Dykes and Nina Marano were released on bail with electronic leg monitoring devices. The two women quickly got to work creating an LLC, applying for lost passports, and applying for visas in Cambodia under the guise of scouting local artists for their newly created LLC. On December 25, 2021, Lisa Dykes and Nina Marano submerged their ELM devices and both stopped sending signals within minutes of one another and the two then boarded a morning flight to Cambodia. Thanks to the diligent work of the Pre-Trial services department, the stopped signal was caught on December 27, 2021, and a warrant was issued that same day.


Thanks to coordinated efforts between the Dallas Police Department, the FBI, and State and Local law enforcement task forces in Cambodia, Lisa Dykes and Nina Marano were located, arrested, and deported from Cambodia back to the United States. During that arrest, Lisa Dykes made a point to stare down FBI Legal Attache Kathleen Nichols and ask “What jurisdiction do you have here?” In their possessions seized by law enforcement were several cell phones and sim cards, multiple computers, paperwork, and a document that contained a list of countries without extradition treaties.

GUILTY and sentenced to LIFE in prison and a $10,000 fine for murder and 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for tampering with a human corpse

State vs. David Fields

Sex Assault

Lead: Chelsea McHenry

2nd Chair: Deborah Bankhead

DA Investigator: Lee Thompson & Abigail Cruz

DA Victim Advocate: Adriana Sellers


The defendant sexually assaulted the victim at the Ledbetter DART station. Eyewitnesses intervened to thwart the attack. The defendant was located down the street and was identified by the victim as the perpetrator. The defendant had prior convictions for sexual assault of a child, compelling prostitution. And failure to register.  


GUILTY and sentenced to LIFE in prison.

State vs. DeAndre Hines

Capital Murder

Lead: Delayna Griffin

2nd Chair: Herschel Woods

DA Investigators: Martin Bosse, Rusty Taylor, Mikey Csaszar

DA Victim Advocate: Melinda Shelton

Investigating Agency: Dallas Police Department


The defendant was the victim’s longtime friend and roommate. Due to perceived tension regarding the living situation, the defendant decided that he was going to rob and kill the victim. On the day in question, the victim was found by his girlfriend in his apartment. He had been shot multiple times by the defendant. The defendant, during the course of the murder and robbery, stole a large amount of money. He used the victim’s vehicle to flee the scene. Police were able to track the vehicle and the defendant by matching the GPS records from the vehicle and the defendant’s cell phone records. The defendant fled to Abilene, Texas, and then to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where he was eventually arrested on a warrant.


GUILTY and sentenced to LIFE in prison without the possibility of parole.

State vs. Sung Hong

Aggravated Assault Serious Bodily Injury Family Member with a Deadly Weapon

Lead: Heather Ragsdale

2nd Chair: Renson Abraham

DA Investigator: Lyle Gensler & Darrell Simmons

Investigating Agency: Irving Police Department


On July 9, 2020, the defendant shot his estranged wife multiple times, including in the head, and then struck her multiple times with a hammer. A jury found him guilty, and the judge sentenced him to life in prison. The victim survived her injuries and testified at trial.


GUILTY and sentenced to LIFE in prison.

State vs. Andres Ramirez


Lead: Leah Dintino

2nd Chair: Alex Dobiyanski

DA Investigator: Victor Vasquez

DA Victim Advocate: Sandra Walker

Investigating Agency: Dallas Police Department


A group of friends were outside of their home admiring a new car that one of them had purchased. The victim, Lorenzo Perez, had just helped his other friend, who was wheelchair-bound, out of the house. The defendant, with no provocation and in a paranoid delusion, stole the victim's gun off his waistband, shot him twice and attempted to strangle the victim. The victim’s friends then took him to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. After the murder, the defendant and his family hid the bloody clothes from the case in a neighbor’s backyard and hid the defendant in a hotel. The defendant later met with the police and had no remorse for the murder. He did not end up confessing to the shooting. The jury found the defendant guilty of murder and they recognized that the defendant had some mental illness but was not otherwise an evil person. The defendant had no violent criminal history. The judge assessed the punishment.


GUILTY and sentenced to 30 years in prison

State vs. Charles Moore

DWI Felony Murder & Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon

Lead: Priscilla Pelli

2nd Chair: Andrew James

DA Investigator: Ron Cathcart

DA Legal Assistant: Maria Cantrell

Investigating Agency: Balch Springs Police Department with assistance from the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office


As the sun was setting in the early evening hours of April 26, 2021, Jose Vazquez, his wife Sarah, and two of their four kids were riding bicycles on the street near their home in Balch Springs.  As they were heading home – in a single file line on the edge of the roadway with Jose in the back, Sarah in front of him, and the kids in front of them – the defendant was also on his way home in his pickup truck when he drove up behind the Vazquez family and struck Jose from behind and then Sarah, sending them both crashing into a grassy ditch on the side of the road.  The defendant was intoxicated with a blood alcohol content of 0.182.  Jose died at the scene from his injuries and Sarah suffered serious bodily injury and still walks with a limp nearly 3 years later. 


The defendant was charged with DWI felony murder. He had two prior DWI convictions from the 1990s and an Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon.  The defendant argued that the crash was caused by the victims riding their bikes on the roadway, at night, in dark clothes, without reflectors, and that Jose swerved out in front of the defendant as he slowed down and tried to pass them.  Before trial, Investigator Cathcart went out to the scene during a similar time of day as the crash and under similar atmospheric lighting conditions and took photos of what a driver would be able to see from the defendant’s viewpoint.  He also took additional measurements and did a time and distance analysis.  This evidence and his testimony were essential to proving the defendant’s guilt at trial.  Judge Stephens convicted the defendant of both felony murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. 


As Moore was 68 years old at the time – and potentially suffering from memory issues from years and years of drinking – Judge Stephens wanted an evaluation completed prior to sentencing.  In the time it took for the evaluation to be completed and a suitable date set where everyone was available for the sentencing, the defendant’s trial attorney died. 


After the sentencing hearing, Judge Stephens sentenced the defendant to 20 years TDCJ on both cases.  The Vazquez family was extremely happy with the result. 


GUILTY and sentenced to 20 years in prison

State vs. Joshua James

Assault of a Pregnant Person

Lead: Megan Reed

2nd Chair: Mackensie Pfleger

DA Investigator: Crystal Gregan

Investigating Agency: Dallas Police Department


The defendant chased the victim out of a motel room and pulled her down from behind. He punched and strangled her on the stairs. After the victim tried to get away, the defendant strangled her to unconsciousness up against a fence and then threw her on the ground. The victim did not testify at trial, but the offense was captured on surveillance video.


GUILTY and sentenced to 9 years in prison.

State vs. Henry Diaz Vargas

Intoxication Manslaughter x 2

Lead: Stephen Duplantis

2nd Chair: James Worley

DA Investigator: Derek Bryant

Investigating Agency: Dallas Police Department


The defendant is 20 years old and has no previous criminal record. He was traveling 78 miles per hour in a 40-mile-per-hour zone after midnight with no headlights. He t-boned two victims making a left turn at an intersection. He had a blood alcohol content of .15 with beer cans in his truck.


GUILTY and sentenced to 9 years in prison.


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