A 42-year-old Lexington man entered guilty pleas Thursday afternoon in Dawson County District Court for the October 4, 2016 death of another man. Manuel Juarez-Mendez was originally charged with First Degree Murder and Use of a Weapon to Commit a Felony in the death of 37-year-old Jose Hernandez. As part of a plea agreement introduced into court, Juarez-Mendez pled guilty to a reduced charge of Manslaughter and Use of a Weapon to Commit a Felony.
Hernandez’s body was found at the rural Lexington residence of Juarez-Mendez. Juarez-Mendez had been identified as Jose Regalado-Mendez in all previous court proceedings but, admitted his true identity in court Thursday as Manuel Juarez-Mendez. During the hearing, Dawson County Attorney Liz Waterman said Juarez-Mendez engaged in a verbal altercation with 37-year-old Jose Hernandez in the home of Juarez-Mendez. She further stated “this defendant brandished a handgun and pointed it at Mr. Jose Hernandez. During the altercation, this defendant fired the handgun.” The bullet struck Hernandez in the neck and ultimately led to his death.
District Judge Jim Doyle ordered a pre-sentence investigation by the District 11 Probation Office and set sentencing for January 7, 2019 at 8:15am. Juarez-Mendez faces up to 20 years in prison on the Manslaughter charge and from 5 to 50 years on the weapon charge. A separate charge of Possession of a Controlled Substance was dismissed. The case of codefendant Melissa Callahan is still pending. She is charged with being an accessory in the case.