Friendship turns deadly for 2 young women: South Texas Crime Stories

Both Heather Willms and Esmeralda Herrera were friends with Jose Baldomero Flores

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Heather Ann Willms

Heather Ann Willms was enjoying life, she graduated from O’Connor High School in 2001 and had attended San Antonio College and Texas Lutheran University.

She had five siblings and was admired by many friends, including Jose Baldomero Flores, who she and her family called Joe.

Heather and Jose met at O’Connor and had been friends since.

Often, she would invite him over to her family’s house for dinner.

A grisly discovery

On February 21, 2005, Heather was supposed to work at her job as a waitress at Champs Americana Restaurant but she never showed up.

Her friends and family tried calling her but there was no answer.

The next morning, Heather’s body was found inside her home, it was a tragic day her stepmother Marianne Willms spoke about in court.

“Her friends were looking for her because she didn’t show up to work or to pizza afterwards, and they called us worried. Her dad was there with her friends when they found her. He called and said it’s bad, Heather’s dead,” Marianne said.

Heather had been found in the bedroom of her Leon Valley apartment. She had been raped and strangled.

Everyone who knew her was shocked by her murder. Who would do something like this to her?

Police began their investigation and questioned everyone but no arrests were made and eventually the case went cold.

Another woman’s body found

Six years later on March 2, 2011, San Antonio firefighters responded to an apartment fire but inside they found the body of a woman.

That woman was identified as 30-year-old Esmeralda Herrera.

She had been tied up, raped, beaten, and strangled, the fire was intentionally set to destroy the evidence.

But, not all of the evidence was destroyed.

Heather Willms and Esmeralda Herrera. Both were murdered by a friend named Jose Baldomero Flores. (Copyright 2022 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

Jose Baldomero Flores

According to an affidavit, DNA was left on a beer can in the kitchen, along with hairs and fibers and a bloody shoeprint.

Police soon found out that throughout the day Esmeralda had been talking off and on with one person, a friend named Jose Baldomero Flores.

A friend of Esmeralda’s later told police that she had known Jose for about a year.

The day before she was killed, Esmeralda had told the friend that Jose would be coming over to visit.

Police now had a suspect in Esmeralda’s murder. Six weeks later, Jose was charged.

But he didn’t stay in jail long and was actually released just a month later, the district attorney’s office said they needed more concrete evidence to indict him.

The waiting game began.

It would be five years before an arrest was made, but this time with the help of the Texas Rangers.

Flores was arrested and charged, not just with Esmeralda’s murder but also the murder of Heather Willms.

Two families now bonded over the crimes committed a person both of their daughters knew and called a friend.

They would have to wait again, this time for justice to be served, and that came in the summer of 2022.

“The overwhelming grief started to set in as there was no sleep, just crying. And we started to plan Heather’s funeral, which no parent should ever have to plan their child’s funeral. It was devastating,” Marianne said.

“Every fiber of my being wants you to suffer and live in fear just as my Heather did, just as Esmeralda did,” said Donna Ellis, Heather’s mom.

Jose Baldomero Flores facing the death penalty in the slayings of two women. (Copyright 2022 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

Plea and sentencing

On Monday, days before a jury was to be picked for one of his upcoming trials, Flores took a plea deal.

Flores was given two consecutive life sentences on two first-degree murder charges.

“The most disturbing part of this murder is that this brutal murder was not committed by a stranger. Joe Flores lost not only her friend, but what she thought of is a big brother. Joe came to our house. He ate our food in the doorway with our children. He was no stranger. Five days after Joe Flores murdered Heather, he held up her casket with her body and walked down the aisle of our church as a pallbearer. He he walked with the casket down the hill to the cemetery where he watched her casket lowered into her grave. Heather watches over all of us every day is our guardian angel today. This is our opportunity to bring her justice. Although we will not carry his casket, all of us, as said, this community are watching his Joe for us, pleads guilty to her murder. He will live his life in prison and we will carry him in our hearts forever,” Marianne said at his sentencing.

“Evil took my daughter my angel. Pure evil. Joe, you are the poster child of evil. You deserve nothing less than to suffer for eternity. That fact is the reason I am writing this. Knowing you will suffer every day of your life. The way I suffer every day of my life,” Dona Ellis said. “Today I forgive you. As hard as that is to say. And it makes me sick. I take my life back from your evil grip. I give myself my emotions, my thoughts. I give all of it to God as I move forward in my life, knowing Heather is alive, healthy, and happy in heaven.”

The Herrera Family had a letter read in court by a victim advocate and they wished Flores to suffer in prison.

Flores is now serving his life sentences in Beeville at the Garza West Unit. KSAT 12 Court Reporter Erica Hernandez reached out to see if he was interested in talking but he did not answer.

A forensic psychologist weighs in

Erica spoke with forensic psychologist Dr. John Delatorre and asked him about his thoughts on Jose Flores.

“When I first learned about this case was that this was someone who I think believed himself to be involved in relationships with these two women that perhaps wasn’t in reality. And because it wasn’t real, because it wasn’t an actual relationship that he thought it was in his head. It can it turned violent and it turned aggressive and ended up leading to the deaths of these two women,” Dr. Delatorre said.

She asked if he believed Flores committed any more crimes between killing Heather and Esmeralda.

“I don’t think so. I don’t think he killed other people in between. I think the reason why that there is such a long gap in between was potentially that he was engaging in behaviors that might be considered stalking. Right. I think what he was trying to do was really hyper focus in on one of these two. Right. Because I think the first victim he knew back in high school and then there’s like a six year gap or something like that between the second victim,” Dr. Delatorre said. “So I think after the first victim, he probably spent a lot of time just trying to get to know, trying to get in the good graces of the second victim. Took a little while. Right. I don’t view him as potentially being one of these guys who knows how to talk to women, knows really how to talk to anybody, can really have a conversation. I wouldn’t be surprised if people described him as awkward or weird when interacting with him. It’s just it takes him a long time. And so in his mind, he then has to fantasize about what these relationships would look like. And that would take a long time before he would actually feel comfortable enough to engage with the person.”

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About the Authors:

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.