DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Antonio Cochran was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Dallas teenager Zoe Hastings.
The jurors listened to testimony Monday in the sentencing phase of the trial and took less than 10 minutes to agree to a life sentence.
Hastings’ parents said after the verdict they were glad its all over and they were satisfied with the outcome.
“There are no words that can express our sorrow to the Hastings family for having to endure such a traumatic and tragic loss,” said Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson. “We will continue to pray for them and while we cannot bring Zoe back, we hope this outcome will help them heal. On behalf of my team who worked on this case, I want to thank the jury for their service. Their sentence ensures that Antonio Cochran will no longer have the opportunity to harm another person again.”
Hastings was on her way to church two years ago when she was kidnapped and murdered. The 18-year-old girl had stopped at a Walgreens store to return a Redbox movie. Authorities located the Hastings family minivan in a creekbed the next morning. The teenager’s body was found nearby.
After days without a verdict, the jury of eight women and four men worked on a Saturday and ultimately found Cochran guilty of murder — but not capital murder, which would have led to an automatic life sentence without parole. The prosecution did not seek the death penalty because the 36-year-old man was diagnosed with some intellectual deficiencies.
Cheryl Hastings, the teen’s mother, took the stand Monday morning and read from prepared notes, describing what the loss of her oldest daughter has done to her family. She wore a smile throughout her testimony, and warned jurors that she will laugh inappropriately when she is nervous.
The mother explained that she is not a “blubbering mess,” but she did not need any tears for her words to sting. She spoke of an emptiness that cannot be filled, and the heartache of knowing that she will never see her girl get married and have children of her own.
The teen’s mother also spoke about a unique kind of heartache when not hanging up Zoe’s stocking on Christmas.
Jurors also heard about Cochran’s prior criminal history and drug use. A former high school classmate said that girls referred to Cochran as “Chester the Molester” because of his creepy stares. Cochran was also acquitted of sexual assault in Texarkana after getting caught with his live-in girlfriend’s 17-year-old daughter, just a few months before Hastings was found dead.
And, shortly before a midmorning break, the judge had to admonish Cochran for trying to pass notes in the courtroom.