Comal County jurors on Friday issued the maximum jail sentence for Daniel Jeremy Heredia, the Wallisville man convicted Thursday in the manslaughter of 33-year-old Jennifer Morgan Rivers of Canyon Lake.
After attorneys delivered closing arguments in the punishment phase of the trial, it took jurors a half hour to agree on a 20-year prison term for Heredia, announced around 3 p.m. before 22nd District Court Judge Bruce Boyer.
On Thursday, the 10-woman, two-man panel deliberated for five hours before finding Heredia, charged with first-degree murder, guilty of the lesser charge. He never took the stand during the trial’s four-day guilt/innocence phase. Manslaughter, a second-degree felony, is punishable by two and 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000, which wasn’t assessed against Heredia.
Assistant Criminal District Attorney Allison Buess said she couldn’t comment on the verdict or punishment, as Comal County prosecutors have several pending charges against Heredia.
If convicted of murder, he could have faced between five to 99 years and fined up to $10,000.
“There are no winners in this case,” defense attorney Dan Dworin said. “The Krueger family (Rivers’ family) has suffered a great deal as well as the Heredia family. It was a terrible situation.
“We feel the jury did a fair job of determining he didn’t intentionally kill her, but at the same time, her death left a big hole in a lot of people’s lives. They obviously also responded by delivering a very strong punishment, which is understandable.”
Heredia is also charged with one count of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence with intent to impair a human course, and six counts of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence. The former is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 maximum fine; the latter is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years and a fine up to $10,000.
In June 2016 Heredia, now 26, and a close friend, William Joseph Griffin, 25, drove a luxury camper from his southeast Texas home, 60 miles east of Houston, to the Rio Guadalupe Resort on River Road in Sattler. Two days later they met Rivers, known by friends and family as “Gigi,” while tubing the river, and got her to join them in their RV later that afternoon.
Griffin said they were all in the living room when he Heredia pulled a .22 handgun from his swim trunks, stood behind the victim and ‘executed’ Rivers with a single gunshot to the brain.
The men said they left Rivers’ body in the RV during their 3½-hour their return trip to Wallisville. Hours after arriving back, Heredia and his brother called Chambers County authorities, who found find Rivers’ half-nude body lying just outside the trailer.
Heredia and Griffin were initially jailed in Chambers County. Heredia was transferred to the Comal County Jail in July 2016, when Chambers County dropped tampering charges against Griffin.
During the trial, Dworin hammered away at the prosecution’s star witness, who he claimed received a “sweetheart” deal through the county’s grant of immunity for his testimony during the Heredia trial. Comal County prosecutors said they have ample outside evidence to seek Griffin’s indictment by a grand jury, which could be seated Wednesday, and prepare the next round of charges against Heredia.
“That will all be discussed down the road,” Dworin said. “Right now everybody is processing what happened this week. We’ll fall back and regroup and figure out a way to make sense of the rest of it.”