A Wichita Falls Woman Finds Justice At Last

August 2013 has been a rough month.  We’ve had to endure the trial of the terrorist Nadal Hasan, the senseless killing of an Australian student in Oklahoma and the brutal murder of a WWII veteran.  In each case, the assailants were thugs, hell-bent on dispensing pain, suffering and grief.  Their motives were different, but the end result was the same-innocent people died at the hands of evil, soul-less individuals.

Right here in Wichita Falls, an ordeal of more than three years finally ended last week with the sentencing of a man who helped his son cover up an unimaginable crime.

I first met Balynnda Dillard in January of 2011, shortly after her daughter Danielle Hill Alvarado went missing.  From day one, Balynnda suspected that Danielle’s husband, Jonathan, had done something terrible.  Days turned into weeks, weeks into months.  There were few leads.  Jonathan dropped off the radar for a time.  Danielle’s daughter, Nikki, pleaded for her mother’s return.  Balynnda pleaded for anyone who knew anything to come forward.  In September 2011, while the search for clues continued, Jonathan Alvarado hanged himself at his home.  The only person who could answer for Danielle’s whereabouts was gone, or so it seemed.

Jonathan Alvarado insisted Danielle had simply walked away.  Balynnda knew better.  She knew her daughter would never just walk away from her little girl.  On October 18, 2012, more than two years after Danielle went missing her family’s worst fears were confirmed.   A tip led police to a shallow grave in Burnett Park along FM 368.  It was a location that had been checked before, but with no results.  This time, it was all but certain-this was Danielle.  Dental records and a tattoo confirmed the news; Danielle Hill Alvarado was found.  Autopsy results showed Danielle died a violent death, stabbed some 18 times.  On October 27, 2012, she was finally laid to rest in Drumright, Oklahoma.

Robert Alvarado-WCSO
Robert Alvarado-WCSO

Now, the focus turned to Robert Alvarado, Jonathan’s father.  Balynnda and others believed all along that he knew more than he was telling the authorities.  Balynnda made certain the pressure remained on Robert.  Finally, on October 30, 2012, the Wichita County Sheriff’s Office arrested Robert Alvarado.  He was charged with tampering with and fabricating evidence in the disappearance of Danielle.  Ultimately, his confessions, along with information from his own daughter, led Wichita Falls Police, Wichita County Sheriff’s deputies and the FBI to the lonely spot where he and Jonathan dug a three foot deep grave.  Two or three days after Jonathan brutally murdered her, he and Robert placed her lifeless body into the ground.

The entire month of August 2013 proved to be an anxious one for Danielle's loved ones, as they waited for word on how this tragedy would end for the one remaining person who could answer for Danielle's murder.   Last week, after having pleaded guilty, Robert Alvarado was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the crime.  At 57, it’s likely he will die in prison.  Not nearly enough, in my opinion, but it's what the law allowed for.  Finally, at least one the guilty will pay a price here on earth.

I last spoke with Balynnda Dillard just before Robert’s sentencing.  She’d just finished her victim impact statement and submitted it to the court.  Through all of the waiting, the anxiousness, the grief and the stress, this woman has continued to work, continued to help raise her granddaughter and live her life as best one can under these circumstances.  The pain and loss will never totally go away.  Even when she smiles, I can still see it in her eyes.  But at least she and her family now have some small amount of peace knowing that some justice has at long last been served for Danielle.

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