Gay Dallas man murdered, dismembered
An openly gay Dallas man was murdered and dismembered inside his apartment on or before Sept. 4, according to police, and the jailed suspect's father speculated that his son was involved in prostitution.
However, one longtime friend of the victim maintained it wouldn't have been like 38-year-old Richard Hernandez to solicit sex, while another warned against jumping to conclusions.
Hernandez is presumed dead after Dallas police discovered a gruesome murder scene inside his apartment at 3939 Rosemeade Parkway in Far North Dallas, according to an arrest warrant. As of Thursday, Sept. 11, Hernandez's remains had yet to be found.
Purchases made on Hernandez's debit card led police to the suspect, 29-year-old Seth Lawton Winder, who's now in Dallas County jail charged with capital murder.
Police reportedly found pornographic images of Winder that had been taken inside Hernandez's apartment, the warrant states. The images were on a digital camera that was recovered from a garage at the home of Winder's father.
But Winder's father said he doesn't think his son was gay.
"To my knowledge, Seth wasn't that way," Rodney Winder said. "I'm pretty sure he was probably prostituting himself just because he was homeless. If he's gay I don't know it. I'm sure that he was probably just trying to survive, being homeless like he was. Plus he's mentally ill."
Rudy Araiza, Hernandez's close friend of 22 years, said he'd never met Seth Winder and is unsure how Hernandez knew him.
"I don't think Richard got his excitement by paying someone for it [sex]," Araiza said. "It's not Richard's character."
Araiza, who's also gay, said Hernandez typically would never allow strangers inside his apartment. Araiza said it's possible Hernandez was trying to help Winder.
"As far as what transpired or what happened, I have no clue," said Araiza, who lives in Arlington. "I could speculate a lot of things, but I really don't know."
Another friend of Hernandez's, who asked not to be identified, said the two likely knew each other because they once worked together, or because Winder once lived in Hernandez's apartment complex.
"Don't jump to conclusions and say that they were doing drugs or it was as one-night stand," said the woman, adding that she's known Hernandez for four years. "All we know is what they're telling us. All we know is he's missing and they have reason to believe he's not on this Earth anymore."
Dallas Police Detective D.A. Thompson, who's investigating the case, declined comment.
According to the capital murder warrant for Winder, police were called after Hernandez didn't show up for his job at Wal-Mart, where he'd worked for eight years, on the morning of Sept. 4.
"It wasn't the norm for Richard to just not show up for work," Araiza said.
When police went to Hernandez's apartment to investigate, they found large amounts of blood on the floor, walls and couch of the living room, according to the warrant. They also found what is believed to be tissue from the victim's internal organs in the bathtub, which "appeared to have been used to dismember the victim's body."
Seth Lawton Winder
The same day, purchases were made using Hernandez's debit card at a Starbucks and a Target in Plano, the warrant states. Police obtained surveillance video of one of the transactions and showed still frames to the manager of Hernandez's apartment complex.
The manager recognized the man in the video as Winder, who had previously lived in the complex, according to the warrant. The manager also told police she'd seen Winder at the complex on both Sept. 3 and Sept. 4.
Police obtained a warrant for Winder's arrest on a charge of debit card abuse on Sept. 6, and they learned that he was camping in a wooded area of Carrollton.
On Sept. 7, police found a bloody backpack in a garbage can near Winder's campsite. The backpack contained items belonging to Hernandez and Winder.
Detectives then went to the home of Winder's father in The Colony. Winder's father told police his son was homeless and had stopped by Sept. 5 to store items in the garage, where the digital camera was recovered.
Rodney Winder told police that he'd loaned his son a tent and that he was camping somewhere in The Colony. Police located the campsite, which Winder had abandoned. Inside the tent, they found a sword and other items from the victim's apartment with large amounts of blood on them.
Winder was arrested Monday, Sept. 8, and police obtained the capital murder warrant Tuesday. As of Thursday, Sept. 11, Winder's total bail amount was $760,504, according to Dallas County online records.
Rodney Winder told Dallas Voice that his son had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Seth Winder tried to strangle his mother in 2005, his father said.
Rodney Winder said he repeatedly tried to get help for his son, whom he kicked out of the house a few years ago because his behavior was getting worse.
"The problem is that by the time he became mentally ill, he was an adult, and for you to be able to do anything for a person, they have to give their consent," Rodney Winder said. "I would tell law enforcement every time. It's well documented. They have the same problem. They say, 'Well, he's an adult, we can't do anything unless he hurts himself or hurts somebody else.' Since Seth was unwilling to go to a shelter or take medication or get himself signed up with the MHMR [Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation] there was nothing anybody could do. You can't take a person and forcibly stick him some place."
Rodney Winder said although he doesn't believe his son was gay, he also doesn't think Seth harbored any animosity or anger toward LGBT people.
"Seth has a real easygoing disposition," Rodney Winder said. "It's hard to talk to him because of his mental illness ... but he's real easygoing, he's real caring. He's just a real nice kid except when he has an episode, when he has a psychotic break, you just don't know what he'll do. That's the reason I removed him from my home."
Hernandez's friends described him as a kind, generous person.
"Rich was probably one of the most sincere, sweet people you will ever meet," said the woman who asked not to be identified. "Rich always had a smile and would drop anything to help anybody, and it's very, very sad what happened to him. It's a very gruesome, horrible thing that happen to someone so sweet and so generous."
Araiza said he met Hernandez in their hometown of Lubbock in 1986. Hernandez moved to the Dallas area in 1994, and Araiza followed a short time later. Araiza said Hernandez's family, including his mother and sister, remain in Lubbock.
"Twenty-two years later, it was more like a brotherhood that we had," Araiza said.
Araiza said although Hernandez was openly gay, he didn't flaunt it and mostly kept to himself. The two friends would sometimes go out together to the clubs on Cedar Springs Road on weekends, Araiza said.
"He was like my hangout buddy," Araiza said. "We went out just to have fun."
Araiza said although he's accepted the fact that his friend is dead, he lacks closure.
"There still isn't a body, and we want to know where he's at," Araiza said.