Suspected serial killer on a crime spree after cutting off ankle tag caught while casing out homes

The arrest came after Houston police identified Jose Gilberto Rodriguez as a potential serial killer and warned the public to be on the lookout for a gray Nissan Sentra

                            Suspected serial killer on a crime spree after cutting off ankle tag caught while casing out homes
(Source:Police Department)

An armed killer, who has been associated with at least three murders in Houston, was caught by the authorities on July 17 morning after he was seen potentially casing out homes for his next robbery. Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said in a press conference that 46-year-old Jose Gilberto Rodriguez's week of crime came to an abrupt halt after a witness called in a tip after they saw his car in their suburban neighborhood.

Deputies in Harris County were already on the lookout for him in the area and were able to find him sitting inside his car. Gonzalez said that this led to a 14-minute chase before Rodriguez gave up without any incident shortly before 8 am ET.

A handgun was recovered from his car and officials stated that he was probably casing out homes in the neighborhood. Gonzalez said: "It's possible that he was looking to score his next victim. We're very relieved and thankful to the citizens of Harris County for calling in and being diligent."

Rodriguez's arrest came after the police identified him as a potential serial killer and warned the public in a press conference on July 16 to be on the lookout for a gray Nissan Sentra. The car, which had been stolen from one of the crimes, was the same one that was taken back from Rodriguez when he was arrested on July 17. 

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo tweeted: "Our community can breathe a sigh of relief this morning." He has also asked the public to review their security camera footage and let the authorities know if they come across anything suspicious, NBC News reported.

Acevedo had said during the press conference that Rodriguez was a "person of strong interest" in the three murders as well as two other crimes in the city. The first one took place on July 9 when he invaded a home in Harris County. An 87-year-old man was tied up by Rodriguez at gunpoint and according to the stepdaughter, the 86-year-old wife was in the shower at that time and was not harmed. There had also been a separate burglary and shooting of a bus driver on July 16 morning in northeast Houston.

Acevedo said that the three murder victims were killed by gunfire. The sheriff's office said in a statement that 62-year-old Pamela Johnson was found dead in her home in the northwest part of the county on July 13 night after relatives were not able to reach her.

The sheriff's office said that a PT Cruiser had been stolen from the elderly woman's home and was recovered the next morning at a mall in Houston. Investigators released images of Rodriguez after identifying him from reviewing surveillance footage.

KPRC, an NBC affiliate, reported that a second victim, 28-year-old Allie Barrow, had been found fatally shot about half a mile away behind a mattress shop. Barrow, who was an employee at Mattress Firm, was discovered already dead by her manager. The station also reported that a third person, Edward Magana, was found dead at a shopping center on July 16 less than two miles from Barrow's body. Magana also worked at a mattress shop called Mattress One.

According to state records, Rodriguez began his life of crime back in 1989 when he was just 17. He had been convicted of attempting to commit aggravated sexual assault, auto theft, and burglary-related charges. He had been sentenced to 25 years in prison. Rodriguez was then sentenced to another 10 years behind bars for another case of theft in a neighboring county. When he was in prison, he was convicted and sentenced to 10 more years for possessing a deadly weapon. 

A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Jeremy Desel, said that the sentences all got stacked and according to state law, Rodriguez was released in September 2017 after serving the time in jail. He had been released on mandatory supervision and this meant he had to wear an ankle monitor. Desel said that Rodriguez was also required to register as a sex offender.

Acevedo confirmed that the convict had been on parole when he cut his ankle monitor a few days ago. He then said that it was still not clear if the murders were those done by a serial killer. He said: "A serial killer is three or more murders — separate homicides — usually without a motive. This guy's motive appears to be robbery, in a lot of cases."

During the press conference, however, Gonzalez said that the evidence looked like it pointed to a serial killer. When responding to a tweet about a potential modus operandi (MO) about the killings, Gonzalez said that the victims had been of mixed ages and genders and were only connected to Houston or its suburbs -  Cypress, Willowbrook, and north Eastex.

He told reporters on July 17 that the suspect had been "floating around" the area where his parents allegedly still stay. He did not say anything else about the handgun that had been recovered from the car. Charges are yet to be filed and Gonzalez said that Rodriguez is expected to be held on a parole violation before any other charges are announced. He said: "At this point, we hope that he can be held accountable and the full extent of the law can be applied."