Man Gets 15 Years to Life for Killing Escort in Newport Beach

Hand in jail

Photo: Getty Images

SANTA ANA (CNS) - A 36-year-old Santa Ana man was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years to life in prison for killing an escort in a Newport Beach office building at the end of 2015.

Nain Isaac Nieto Hernandez, 36, was convicted Aug. 10 of second-degree murder in the Dec. 18, 2015, killing of 23-year-old Sarai Alcaraz of Long Beach at 5030 Campus Drive.

"It was a horrible death she did not deserve," Senior Deputy District Attorney Robert Goodkin told Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard King before sentencing.

Hernandez's attorney, Cameron Talley, said he was "proud to represent" the defendant.

"I thought he had a defensible case and thought he was innocent," Talley said. "But he was found guilty and we accept that."

Hernandez's family could not keep up with the legal bills, but Talley said he stayed on the case and after the conviction they "sold a bunch of stuff and scraped together about $1,200."

Hernandez "is a really good guy and I'm really proud of him. I hope some day when a parole board reads all this and considers all of the evidence they let him out."

Hernandez was given credit for 2,541 days behind bars awaiting trial and sentencing.

Jurors, who were given the option to consider voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter, deliberated for about two days before reaching a verdict.

Police were called just after midnight to an architectural firm's offices when an escort service reported one of its employees missing, according to a trial brief filed by Goodkin.

When officers arrived they encountered Jordan Beltran, a driver for Cyren Entertainment. He said he drove Alcaraz to the office at 10 p.m. and walked her to the door, but ducked around the corner because the client asked her to arrive without a chaperone, Goodkin said.

Once Alcaraz was in the office she texted him at 10:29 p.m. saying she got the money and was coming out, Goodkin said.

While waiting for her to emerge, Beltran said he saw a man leave the business, so he approached him, but he appeared nervous and returned into the office building and locked the door, Goodkin said.

The man, Hernandez, exited again and locked the door behind him, and when Beltran confronted him about Alcaraz's whereabouts, Hernandez said she robbed him and he didn't know where she was, Goodkin said.

When Beltran pressed him on where she was Hernandez got "very nervous" and left in a white minivan and drove away, Goodkin said. When Beltran could not contact Alcaraz on the phone he called the escort service.

About 30 minutes later, Beltran said he saw Hernandez return in the minivan, and when he asked him again about the victim, Hernandez said he saw her hiding in some bushes nearby before the defendant fled, Goodkin said.

The escort service then called police. Police found the victim stuffed in a trash can in a supply closet. Hernandez worked there as a janitor, Goodkin said.

The victim sustained "severe head and facial trauma" and "blood was running from both ears, and her nose," Goodkin said. Police found the defendant's driver's license at the scene, and they also recovered a Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol, Goodkin said.

Hernandez was arrested at about 10:30 a.m. Dec. 30, 2015, and the defendant's father told police that his son said he was robbed at gunpoint and a struggle over the weapon ensued before he punched her and she died, Goodkin said.

"It should be noted that this did not match the DNA results for the firearm or text messages from the defendant's phone about the gun," Goodkin said.

Hernandez, a mixed martial arts fighter, testified that he acted in self-defense when she attempted to rob him and that he just shoved her, but did not punch her.

Other clients of the escort service that night reported that they complained that the woman advertised did not match who showed up for the date and some demanded their money back, Goodkin said.

In his closing arguments, Goodkin said Hernandez, as an undocumented immigrant, did not call 911 when the victim died, but instead feared deportation more than wanting to try to save the victim.

"He doesn't want to call police," Goodkin said. "There's a dead young girl in there."

Goodkin rejected Hernandez's testimony that he just pushed the victim, and the prosecutor argued the defendant punched her.

He also discounted that the entire operation was a "bait and switch" with the escort not matching the person advertised, Goodkin said.

"Here, none of that happened. She comes in and he's ready to have sex with her right away," Goodkin said. "The problem here started when she wasn't ready to have sex with him. There's no problem with `you're not the girl from the advertisement."'

Talley attacked the prosecution's case, particularly the testimony of forensic pathologist Dr. Yong-Son Kim. He said the prosecution argued that the defense tried to claim the facial injury was possibly rug burn, but the defense attorney noted that was Kim's theory in the case at some point.

"It was never part of our theory," Talley said. "The prosecution stands up here and says it's a crazy theory and it is. But we've never proposed that. ... It's so frustrating to hear things that are so mischaracterized and misrepresented."

Talley argued his client was the victim.

"This case is not about prostitution -- there is no prostitution going on. None, zero, zip," Talley said. "This is not a scam. This is a criminal enterprise."

Talley said the plan was "to do a bait and switch and have muscle come and get the money. Not once did she sell her body. Not once did she try to sell her body. She was somebody who was engaged in a criminal enterprise and Beltran is there to collect."

Talley argued that Hernandez was a "perfect victim" because, "No John is going to want to call police. ... Mr. Hernandez was the fifth victim that night."

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