By Debby Schamber

For the Record

Jorge Elizalde-Sanchez, 41, of Bridge City, has accepted a plea bargain agreement and has been sentenced to 45 years in prison for the September 2016 murder of 27-year-old Kara Willingham. 

The incident began at about 7 p.m. when officers were dispatched to a residence on Mary Avenue in Bridge City regarding a possible homicide. Upon their arrival they found Kara Willingham lying on the living room floor.  

A short time later, officers learned, Sanchez and Willingham were not married, but had two small children together. At the time, their whereabouts were unknown. Investigators were informed the couple was having relationship problems. Later, they would learn Sanchez was an illegal alien. 

Investigators worked the crime scene and concluded Kara Willingham had been dead only a few hours due to the dried blood on her body and clothing. Additionally, they found dried blood on the floor, reclining chair and blood spatter on the walls, according to the probable cause affidavit.  

Around 8:30 p.m. officers located the 2005 Dodge Caravan with Sanchez driving it. An officer activated his emergency lights, but Sanchez did not stop. Instead, Sanchez turned down another street and made a U-turn in the grass. Officers drove their vehicles in front of the van and it came to a stop. Also inside the vehicle were the couple’s children. At first Sanchez refused to exit the vehicle, but he later complied. He was taken into custody, according to the probable cause affidavit. 

Officers noted fresh scratch marks on the right side of Sanchez’ chest and scratch marks on his back. They also observed what appeared to be an abrasion on the top of his left hand. 

 Sanchez later told an officer, “I did something bad and something bad happened.” 

The following day he was read his rights and was questioned about the events. During the interview he admitted to murdering Willingham because he suspected she was having an affair. He stated he had found photographs on her cell phone of the person he believed she was having the affair with. Sanchez became angry and approached Willingham who was sitting in the recliner and the pair began to argue. He stated that he struck her face with his left fist and the fight escalated which lead to her death. An autopsy later revealed she died of asphyxia due to ligature and manual strangulation, according to the probable cause affidavit. 

Because of the type of offense, Sanchez will be required to complete a minimum of half of his sentence before he is first eligible for parole. Parole eligibility is based on calendar time. The inmates convicted of 3g offenses are not eligible for mandatory supervision. Any 3g offense committed on or after Sept. 1, 1993, requires an inmate serve a minimum of one-half of the total sentence to become parole eligible. The term “3g” comes from the section 3g of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure for which a judge, as opposed to a jury, can never sentence a defendant to probation, according to information from the Texas Parole Board. 

Upon his release, because of his immigration status, he will be extradited back to his home country.