BROWNSVILLE — This is the story of a convicted murderer who had just been sentenced to 23 years in prison. He stood up, walked out of the courtroom — and has never been seen again.
That was five years ago this month.
The tale begins in an Internet chatroom on June 10, 2005. After meeting there, Rockport resident Amit Livingston, a medical billing specialist, and Hermila Hernandez, a substitute teacher in Edinburg, were said to have become lovers.
Hernandez’s mother, Hermila Garcia, has said she learned about the chatroom meeting from Cameron County sheriff’s investigators.
Although Hernandez was married and had three children, Garcia believes her daughter sought a relationship with Livingston because of problems in her marriage. Texas Rangers who investigated concluded that Livingston and Hernandez indeed were having an affair.
“This was not a relationship of years. This was a momentary relationship,” the mother said. “We don’t know where (Livingston) came from.”
Worse, five years after he was convicted of Hermila’s murder, no one seems to know where he went.
The brief affair
About four months after Livingston and Hernandez met, the affair ended tragically. One of them was dead, the other charged with murder.
On Oct. 4, 2005, the body of the 32-year-old substitute teacher was found partially nude on a sand dune in a remote part of South Padre Island. She had been shot.
She had been missing for four days, officials said.
Livingston, then 38, at first denied any involvement in her death and lied to investigators about his whereabouts around the time she was killed.
Authorities searched his apartment in Rockport and discovered a handgun similar to the one used to shoot Hernandez.
About two weeks after the body was discovered, Livingston turned himself in to authorities. His case remained in limbo for well over a year.
A guilty plea
On Feb. 13, 2007, Livingston pleaded guilty to murdering Hernandez. He told 404th state District Judge Abel Limas that he killed her because she “pushed the right buttons” and insulted his manhood.
Investigators said they believed that he killed her because she planned to break up with him.
The judge accepted the guilty plea and sentenced Livingston to 23 years in prison.
What happened next is disputed, at least in terms of what prosecutors did.
After the sentence was pronounced, Limas granted Livingston 60 days to get his “affairs in order.”
The Cameron County district attorney’s office contends that it objected to letting Livingston go free for two months.
But the court transcripts from the sentencing do not reflect any such objection. The district attorney’s office says the objection was made behind closed doors, and the office still maintains that it objected to Livingston being freed for 60 days.
This is disputed by both Livingston’s attorney and by the judge.
Greg Gladden, Livingston’s attorney, said at the time there was no objection by the prosecutors.
He was asked last week if he stands by that statement today.
“Yes,” Gladden replied.
In 2008, Limas said that no one involved in the case had objected to the plea bargain that included the 60 days of freedom for Livingston.
Livingston walked out of the 404th state District Court on Feb. 13, 2007, and has not been seen or heard from since. He failed to return on April 14, 2007, the date he was to begin serving his 23-year sentence.
Cameron County authorities say they continue to search for the fugitive, noting that in recent years they followed several leads but couldn’t find him.
Livingston, who would be 43 now, is listed by Interpol, the international police organization, as a person wanted in the United Stated.
He remains on the list of Cameron County’s top 10 most wanted criminals and also is listed on the “America’s Most Wanted” website.
On June 23, 2007, he was presented in the “15 Seconds of Shame” piece on the “America’s Most Wanted” television show, which gives viewers a quick recap of why the person is sought and features the fugitive’s photograph.
According to his profile on “America’s Most Wanted,” possible places where he is hiding include Baltimore County, Md., Seattle and Honolulu.