Skidmore man gets 50 years

Ruben Echavarria

A Skidmore man has been sentenced to spend the next 50 years of his life behind bars in connection with the 2017 slaying of an 88-year-old woman.

Ruben Echavarria, 21, received his sentence in Bee County District Court Nov. 18 from 36th Judicial District Judge Starr Bauer. 

Echavarria was 18 when he and his friend, Christopher Diaz – then 17 – robbed and tortured Dora Koop Nov. 13, 2017, in the Skidmore home that she lived in for 50 years, said Assistant District Attorney Tiffany McWilliams of the 156th Judicial District.

“They lived in the apartment complex across the street,” she said Nov. 19. “Neither of them had masks on or tried to obscure their identities.”

Diaz and Echavarria entered Koop’s house at 1 a.m., McWilliams said. According to documents related to the investigation, she said the duo indicated that they entered through the living room and that the house was dark.

“They see a light, thinking that’s where she is and go toward the light,” McWilliams said.

The teens, who had a bag containing various items including duct tape and rubbing alcohol, used the tape to bind Koop before they tortured her. Investigator John Landreth of the 156th Judicial District said earlier that during the ordeal, Koop suffered a heart attack and died.

“Ruben took the stand yesterday for the first time and said it was he who ‘stomped’ Mrs. Koop,” McWilliams said.

In their statements when the two were arrested, Echavarria and Diaz’s account of how much money they stole from Koop varied between $15 and $19, which the two divided between them. Echavarria said after they left the house, they went joyriding in Koop’s car and “smoked a blunt.”

According to the investigation, Diaz later that day picked up his girlfriend in the car and the two drove to get a hamburger at a McDonald’s in Mathis.

McWilliams said neither Diaz nor Echavarria ever gave a motive for their crime.

“They said it wasn’t supposed to happen,” she said. “They were going to take some things and get out.”

Echavarria had a criminal record prior to the incident in Koop’s home. McWilliams said he served 2 years on probation after being adjudicated as a juvenile for burglary of a habitation.

“He said that during that time, he committed seven burglaries, for which he never got caught,” she said. 

Echavarria’s sentence is the maximum amount of time allowed under a plea agreement that was negotiated earlier, McWilliams said. The deal, in which he had to plead guilty and waive his right to a jury trial, also included Echavarria’s initial capital murder charge being downgraded to murder. He must spend at least 25 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

Diaz, who agreed to a similar plea bargain, was sentenced in October to serve 45 years in prison.

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