The man who brutally raped and murdered 18-year-old Zoe Hastings in October 2015 has been sentenced to life in prison.
A Dallas County jury took less than seven minutes to sentence Antonio Cochran, 37, on Monday.
The same jury convicted Cochran of murder, a lesser charge than he was on trial for, on Saturday after deliberating four days.
Prosecutors argued that Cochran was all about “violent urges, sexual urges.”
Several witnesses described an incident in which Cochran had been found having sex with his girlfriend’s 17-year-old daughter. And one woman testified that people called Cochran “Chester the molester” in high school because of the way he would leer at his female classmates.
By contrast, Zoe Hastings’ friends and family described the teenager as a “light to everybody.”
Her father, Jim Hastings, was the final person to testify Monday. The art teacher described drawing his wife, Cheryl, when she was pregnant with Zoe, their first child, and then later drawing Zoe herself.
“I drew her every stage of her life all the way up to her death,” he said.
Many in the courtroom, including jurors, wiped their eyes while Hastings talked about his first-born.
He sometimes faced Cochran while he talked about how Zoe had been ripped from his life.
At one point, he told the killer, “I hope you remember my face.”
Hastings described how he and his wife had to explain to their four younger children that a “bad man” had killed their sister. He said his son wailed and hasn’t spoken to his father about Zoe since.
“It’s real hard to tell my children they’re going to be safe,” Hastings said.
He asked the jury to send Cochran to prison for the rest of his life.
“I believe if he gets out of prison, he’s going to do the same thing to somebody else. I’d hate that my daughter died and he goes and does it to somebody else,” he said.
After the sentencing, he and his wife said they were happy with the verdict. They said they worried after Cochran was convicted of a lesser charge that he could one day be free.
Cochran was originally charged with capital murder, and a conviction would have sent him to prison for life without the possibility of parole.
Under the murder conviction, Cochran could be eligible for parole after serving at least 30 years.
Jurors appeared deadlocked on whether prosecutors proved that Hastings had been kidnapped, a key element to finding him guilty of capital murder.
Hastings stopped at a Walgreens to return a Redbox movie on her way to church Oct. 11, 2015.
When the teen didn’t return home for the family’s Sunday dinner, her parents worried. They drove around their neighborhood.
“We drove over that bridge where she was at at least three dadgum times not knowing she was there,” Jim Hastings said. “At that point, we didn’t know what happened to her, but we knew it was bad.”
They used a phone tracking app to find where her phone was. By the time they arrived, police officers were already there.
The teen’s body was found the next morning, in a dry creek bed in the 11700 block of Dixfield Drive. Her family’s minivan was crashed into a ravine. Her throat had been slashed several times, and a bloody pocketknife was found nearby.
An officer held Jim Hastings back and said, “Don’t go over there and look at your daughter. You won’t be able to forget what you see.”
The parents stayed back and haven’t seen any photos of the crime scene.
They said it has been difficult for them to tell their surviving children how to stay safe, especially when their teenage daughter had been in her own White Rock neighborhood when she was abducted.
“I did everything I could to protect that girl as she grew up,” Jim Hastings said. “She goes across the street from our house and comes across someone like Antonio Cochran.”
Cheryl Hastings was calm as she testified for a second time during the trial Monday.
She said she may not be “a blubbering mess” but she said the family feels incomplete without Zoe.
“There’s an emptiness I just can’t fill,” she said. “It’s hard to get excited about family pictures without her in them.”
The mother said she mourns never knowing if her daughter would’ve become a pediatric surgeon like she planned.
Cochran showed little emotion throughout sentencing testimony and even tried to pass a note to State District Judge Robert Burns.
His sister, pastor and childhood friend testified on Cochran’s behalf. They described him as a good man with some mental problems.
The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office reversed its plan to seek the death penalty against Cochran on the capital murder charge in November after experts found he is intellectually disabled.
His sister, Tanisha Cochran, said her brother’s father wasn’t in his life and the family struggled financially when they were children.
“I’m sure he wanted that father figure attention,” she testified, before telling the jury, “I’m just asking y’all to be merciful on him.”
Prosecutors showed explicit posts Cochran had made on Facebook, including a series of photos he took of a woman bending over into her car. It appears Cochran took the picture of the woman at a car wash from a distance.
Prosecutor Pat Kirlin argued Cochran showed no mercy to Zoe Hastings.
“Did he show any mercy for her when he abducted her, a total stranger, from the Redbox? Raped her and then ripped open her throat? Where’s the mercy there?” Kirlin asked the jury.