National News

Suspect Is Arrested After a String of Murders and Robberies in the Houston Area

Posted July 17, 2018 2:48 p.m. EDT

The victims were attacked in mattress stores, houses and a city bus. The suspect stole their cars, or knocked on random doors, pretending to be looking for an acquaintance when he was really in search of people to assault and rob, authorities in Houston said.

For the past week, law enforcement officials in Harris County and the Houston area have warned residents not to open their doors to strangers, saying a murderer — possibly a serial killer — was on the loose.

On Tuesday morning, after a 15-minute car chase in which he was driving a victim’s vehicle, Jose Gilberto Rodriguez, 46, was arrested as the suspect in the string of three killings and two violent robberies.

Rodriguez, a registered sex offender who was on parole, had cut his ankle monitor before he allegedly embarked on the spree that started July 9 in the county’s northwestern neighborhoods, authorities said.

“It was possible he was looking to score his next victim,” the Harris County sheriff, Ed Gonzalez, said in a news conference.

“You never know what’s in their mind,” Gonzalez said.

Authorities have not yet announced formal charges, aside from a probation violation, and Gonzalez said the motive in the killings was not yet clear.

The Houston Police Department and the sheriff’s department had been warning residents of Harris County, the largest in Texas, for nearly a week to take precautions.

On July 9, Rodriguez was suspected of carrying out a home invasion robbery in the Houston area.

The first murder was on Friday, the sheriff’s department said. Family members of the victim, Pamela Johnson, 62, contacted authorities because they could not reach her for three days.

Her body was found inside her Cypress home, outside of Houston, the sheriff’s department said in an earlier news release. Her maroon Chrysler was stolen.

On Saturday, Johnson’s vehicle was located at the parking lot of the Willowbrook Mall. Rodriguez was identified leaving the vehicle, according to surveillance video released by police.

The same day, in a nearby mattress store, an employee was found fatally shot, Chief Art Acevedo of the Houston Police Department said. The store manager found the body of Allie Barrow between two mattresses, ABC News reported.

On Monday, another murder victim was found in a mattress store in Houston, and a gray Nissan Sentra was taken from the location. The same day, a bus driver was assaulted and robbed, Acevedo said.

Later on Monday, authorities suggested they were closing in on the suspect. Acevedo and Gonzalez took turns holding up a photograph of Rodriguez at a news conference in which they first identified him as a person of interest.

Although robbery with gang affiliations was a possible motive, Gonzalez said the suspect was also being considered a “possible serial killer.”

Acevedo described Rodriguez’s array of tattoos, and his propensity to wear a baseball cap and to change stolen cars often, enabling him to evade detection.

“If he is hearing my voice? We are coming for you,” Acevedo said.