September 2, 2014 3:03 pm -- RICHMOND, Texas — A Houston man is on trial for capital murder, accused of slaying a man he and two others reportedly picked up in May 2006 at a gay bar in Montrose, then robbed and killed.
Luis Carlos Rodriguez, now 36, faces life in prison without possibility of parole if convicted in the trial, which began August 26 with jury selection in Fort Bend County's 240th District Court.
Arnulfo Quintero Aguilar, 43, was found dead around 12:15 a.m. on May 28, 2006, in the Townewest subdivision of Sugar Land. He was bound with a dog leash, a nylon cord, a knotted TV cable, and neckties that joined his left ankle to both wrists, according to an autopsy report. Police said Aguilar had been beaten with a blunt object, his house was ransacked, and his red 1997 Jeep Cherokee was stolen.
Rodriguez was implicated by a co-defendant, Alberto Ramos, after Ramos was arrested June 3, 2006, when Houston police stopped Aguilar's stolen Jeep on a traffic violation.
Ramos reportedly told police that he, Rodriguez, and another man he called "Alonso" went to the Montrose Mining Company for the purpose of befriending someone and robbing him.
Rodriguez was arrested February 23, 2007, and is being held without bond in the Fort Bend County Jail. Ramos is currently serving 15 years in the William G. McConnell Unit in Beeville, Texas. The State of Texas offered Ramos a plea bargain after he claimed that his confession was coerced. Among other reasons, Ramos contended that police threatened him with the death penalty. As a 17-year-old, he was too young to be sentenced to death if convicted.
In May 2014, Ramos was returned to Fort Bend County on a bench warrant to testify in the trial against Rodriguez. However, on August 19, Fort Bend County assistant district attorney Stuti Trehan Patel wrote to the court, "[T]he State interviewed co-Defendant Alberto Ramos, who stated that he [lied] in his previous statements to law enforcement, that he doesn't remember everything he stated to law enforcement, that he was coerced by law enforcement, and that he was under the influence of drugs during the previous statements."
Rodriguez moved to suppress his own statement to police, which defense attorney James A. Stevens of Richmond admitted places his client at the home of the victim around the time of death.
The original videotape of Rodriguez's confession reportedly went missing from the Fort Bend district attorney's office several years ago. But on August 28, visiting Judge F. Lee Duggan Jr. of Houston ruled that both a supposed copy of the videotape and its English translation would be admitted as evidence.
The defendant's attorney, James A. Stevens of Richmond, said that it's obvious from the English translation of Rodriguez's confession in Spanish that he didn't "knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily" waive his Miranda rights. Several times in the interview with police, Stevens explained, Rodriguez asked, "Where's the attorney?" and his question was ignored by interrogators.
Accordingly, said Stevens, if Rodriguez is convicted, his success on appeal will be "in my opinion, a 99% lock."
Testimony is scheduled to continue on September 2.