Waco man sentenced to life in prison for sexually abusing girl over a period of five years

Walter Manuel Cardona
Walter Manuel Cardona(KWTX GRAPHIC)
Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 4:27 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A Waco man who forced a young family member to hold a cell phone so he could watch pornographic images while he sexually assaulted her was sentenced to life in prison without parole Thursday.

A 54th State District Court jury deliberated about 20 minutes Thursday before heeding prosecutors’ requests to return a life sentence with no possibility of parole for 31-year-old Walter Manuel Cardona.

The jury convicted Cardona on Wednesday of continuous sexual abuse of a young child, finding him guilty of sexually abusing a girl over a five-year period beginning when the girl was 7.

McLennan County District Attorney Josh Tetens said this is the second time this week that a “sexual predator” has received a sentence of life without parole. Perry Dwyane Dixon, 46, was convicted on Wednesday in 19th State District Court of abusing two young family members.

“Those in our community that are abusing our children should be scared because our office will do everything we can to ensure you will not hurt another child,” Tetens said. “In this case, Mr. Cardona deserves every single day he’ll sit in prison, and we can hope his victim will heal and have some closure.

“Our dedicated team of law enforcement officers, counselors, doctors and prosecutors continue to do their best to keep our community safe, and I cannot think them enough for fighting for these children this week,” Tetens said.

Cardona’s attorney, Jonathan Sibley, said they were disappointed in the life sentence. Sibley asked the jury for a 25-year prison term, the minimum sentence under the law.

“It’s always hard to hear that word (life) after a trial,” Sibley said. “At the same time, I respect the jury and their decision. I was glad that Mr. Cardona’s parents, his brother and his pastor were there to tell the jury about Walter’s life and try to give them some perspective outside of the difficult accusations he was facing in this trial. I know they will continue to support and pray for him during this difficult time. I certainly will.”

Prosecutors Tara Avants and Luke McCowan told jurors in summations that Cardona stole the young girl’s innocence and left her with permanent scars. In essence, they said, Cardona gave her a life sentence filled with emotional turmoil and he deserves one, too.

“We appreciate the jury’s life sentence in this case and hope it can bring closure to the victim and extended family,” Avants said. “The defendant’s abusive actions shattered this entire family. We appreciate the many professionals who worked on this case and contributed to our ability to successfully prosecute this case of continuous sexual abuse of a young child.”

McCowan said that justice was done and Cardona “will never have another chance to abuse a child.”

The victim testified Cardona sexually abused her on multiple occasions beginning when she was 7 in January 2016 until she reported the abuse in March 2021.

Cardona, who worked as a roofer and an electrician, has juvenile convictions for burglary of a building, giving false information to police, burglary of a vehicle and criminal mischief, according to court records.