Online dating site killer pleads guilty to capital murder

Published: Jan. 10, 2012 at 6:54 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 15, 2014 at 1:49 AM CST
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Tori Ann Pennington
Tori Ann Pennington

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - A convicted killer who met his victim online will now spend life without parole in prison. Dustin Kendrick, 35, pleaded guilty Tuesday to strangling 32 year-old Tori Pennington.

Lubbock Police say this is one of the most horrific crime scenes they have ever seen. It was Pennington's own sons who found her lying face down on the floor with only her socks on and something tied around her neck.

Lubbock County District Attorney, Matt Powell says they didn't want to go to trial because the victim's sons would have to testify. To relive that gruesome moment wasn't an option, Powell said.

"The grandfather as well as me thought that would be detrimental to the boys," said Powell.

Police say Kendrick met Pennington through an online dating service. They met face to face for the first time April 24, 2010.

Court documents reveal a trail of text messages between Kendrick and Pennington the night of the murder.

Pennington explained to Kendrick she had to wait for her children to go to bed.

Kendrick replied, "So, if I don't hear from u soon then no?"

Pennington responded, "I will call u soon, don't b so paranoid."

That's when Kendrick said, "Can u tell im nervous and worried?"

23 minutes later, 20 text messages were exchanged, followed by a phone call. Pennington gave her address at the Terrace Townhomes to Kendrick. That was the last night Pennington was seen alive.

Kendrick was arrested that next day at his mother's south Lubbock home. According to the arrest warrant, he confessed to his mother to killing Pennington.

Authorities still do not know the motive, but Powell can only imagine.

"I think he is a sadistic predator. I think he got some sexual satisfaction out of what he did," Powell said.

Back in May 2010, a Lubbock County grand jury decided there was enough evidence to indict Kendrick for capital murder. Even though the DA didn't go on trial to pursue the death penalty, he says justice has been served.

"Our goal starting off was to make sure he dies in prison, that he never walks out or never steps foot in the free world again and we've accomplished that today," said Powell.

The victim's family nor suspect's wanted to comment.

Right now Pennington's father has custody of her three boys.

Powell says this case is a reminder of how meeting someone online could be dangerous. He advices not to meet people behind the screen.

Copyright 2012 KCBD NewsChannel 11