Things That Matter

Texas Man Convicted For Beheading His Sleeping Roommate And Killing Roommate’s Girlfriend

After spending more than five hours deliberating on the verdict, a Texas jury has found Hector “El Cholo” Acosta-Ojeda guilty of capital murder for the killings of Erick ‘Diablo’ Zelaya, 26, and Iris Chirinos, 17. Prosecutors said Acosta-Ojeda shot his roommate, Zelaya, twice in the head while he slept. He then used a machete to behead Zelaya and left his severed head on a trail near Arlington, Texas’s AT&T Stadium. Zelaya’s girlfriend, Chirinos tried to flee the scene of the gruesome murder, but Acosta-Ojeda fatally shot her. 

Acosta-Ojeda, 30, pleaded not guilty to the crime and did not take the stand.

Credit: @deannaboyd / Twitter

In closing arguments, Acosta-Ojeda’s defense attorneys, Bill Ray and Gary Smart, told the jury that no weapon was linked to Acosta-Ojeda. They argued that the presence of so many other people in the house leaves room for reasonable doubt. They also argued that authorities did not offer a proper reading of Acosta-Ojeda’s Miranda rights, which tell a person under arrest that they have the “right to remain silent” and that, “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” By that waive of rights, any confession Acosta-Ojeda made was nullified. 

Still, The Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney (ADA), Kevin Rousseau, argued, “He confessed to every single aspect of this case,” according to the Star-Telegram.

Prosecutors argued that the motive was linked to another shooting, which occurred in May 2017.

Credit: @miguelgomeztv / Twitter

In a series of strange events, Acosta-Ojeda’s home was targeted by gunmen while he and others were sleeping. Moments later, Zelaya and young Chirinos arrived, laughing. The very next day, someone burned down Acosta-Ojeda’s home. ADA Rousseau learned that Zelaya had confessed to being a part of the shooting just hours before Acosta-Ojeda executed him in his sleep.

After Acosta-Ojeda killed the couple, he buried them in a shallow grave in the backyard, but not before he beheaded Zelaya with a machete. He put the head in a trash bag, made a sign, and rode his bicycle, with a severed head in hand, to what was left of his home. There, he left his friend’s severed head along with a sign that read, “La Raza Se Resreta y Faltan 4,” which roughly means, ‘the race, or group, must be respected and only four remain.”

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, which will be determined in a sentencing hearing Wednesday.

Credit: Iris Gomez / Facebook

While her family has yet to speak out about the incident, friends have posted to her Facebook page, saying “God rest your soul. Prayers to your family.. god sees your true beauty, he will judge the criminal that did this to you… RIP.” Folks continue to post to her page, years later, with thoughts like, “I miss you babygirl. RIP,” and “Missing you like crazy, love you lil sis.”

If the jury doesn’t reach a unanimous decision on capital punishment, Acosta-Ojeda will receive mandatory minimum sentencing of life imprisonment without parole.

Members of the alt-right have tried to use the story to further anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Credit: @TEEITHIGH / Twitter

“Look at the face of the people crossing our border every day to seek that better life. Why behead in Mexico when you can behead in America?” tweets Clayton Freeman. “Democrats want people like this in America!
SIC,” tweeted another woman. A Facebook post sharing the news on the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office page had just one comment: “Hang him!”

Acosta-Ojeda is implicated in another murder case that opened just one month after he killed Zelaya and Chirinos. 

Credit: Triston Algiene / Facebook

Acosta-Ojeda is accused of robbing and murdering 34-year-old Triston Ray Algiene. In October 2017, Algiene’s mutilated body was found, cut in half, and buried in concrete in the foundation of a vacant home. Another man, Felipe Eduardo Ortiz, is also accused in the murder. The two had been renting rooms in the house they chose to bury the body under. Authorities suspect that Ortiz and Acosta-Ojeda had set up the meeting with Algiene to appear as a drug deal, but planned to rob and murder him. According to a report last year, Algiene was then tied with duct tape and rope and beaten into giving the PIN number to his debit card. Now-deceased Zelaya and Chirinos allegedly were tasked with withdrawing money from the ATM. They called Acosta-Ojeda, who allegedly got angry and killed Algiene. They dug a hole in the bedroom, sawed Algiene’s body in half, and covered it up. By the time investigators arrived, the house had been remodeled and up for sale. 

READ: The Murder of a Teen Mom By Her Boyfriend is Raising a Discussion Around the Prevalence of Femicide in Abusive Relationships

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Police Identify, Arrest Man Accused Of Destroying Beloved Jesus Statue In El Paso Church

Things That Matter

Police Identify, Arrest Man Accused Of Destroying Beloved Jesus Statue In El Paso Church

El Paso Police Department / elpasodiocese / Instagram

An important Jesus statue in an El Paso church has been destroyed and police have arrested the suspect. The statue in St. Patrick’s Cathedral was taken down and decapitated and the person police suspect to be responsible has been arrested.

Earlier this week, a 90-year-old Jesus statue was decapitated by a vandal who destroyed the St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

View this post on Instagram

We are saddened to announce the vandalism at St. Patrick Cathedral earlier today. The Cathedral was vandalized this morning at around 10:00am. A suspect came into the sanctuary at St. Patrick Cathedral and destroyed the almost 90-year-old statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was located in the center behind the main altar of the church. The church was open and available for prayer. A suspect has been detained by the El Paso Police department. The police are currently continuing their investigation into the vandalism. The Rector of St. Patrick Cathedral, Fr. Trini Fuentes, said, “I am in shock and we at the Cathedral are heartbroken over such an unexpected situation.” Bishop Seitz also expressed his sadness about the damage caused to the historic Sacred Heart of Jesus Statue. “This statue is one of my favorite representations of Jesus—his arms open wide in welcome, his heart aflame with love for us. I would often take inspiration from this image as I prepared for Mass.” “As sad as I am to see a statue attacked and destroyed, I am grateful that it was not a living person,” Bishop Seitz added. “But a statue, particularly this statue, concretizes and connects us to persons and ideals that are not visible to our eyes. They reveal to us realities that are close to us, but unseen,” he said. “At this point we do not know anything about the person who carried out this assault, but he certainly must be a person who is greatly disturbed to have attacked this peaceful place in our city and this image of the King of Peace. I hope this might be the impetus for him to receive the help he needs. He will be in my prayers,” Bishop Seitz added. “I am devastated at this irreplaceable loss as I know members of this parish community and the whole Church of El Paso will be. In this moment we will reach out in confidence to the One this statue represented and I know he will console us,” Bishop Seitz concluded. St. Patrick, Patron of Ireland and our Diocese, Pray for us.

A post shared by Catholic Diocese of El Paso (@elpasodiocese) on

The community was rocked when the damage was reported. The statue has been behind the church’s main altar for decades. The vandal attacked the statue at around 10:00 a.m. when the church was opened for prayer when the vandal attacked.

El Paso police have arrested a man in connection to the vandalism.

According to a press release from the police department, 30-year-old Isaiah Cantrell has been arrested for the vandalism. The damage to the statue is estimated to be about $25,000 and Cantrell’s bail has been set at $20,500. El Pasoans are angered at the man for destroying the irreplaceable statue.

“This statue is one of my favorite representations of Jesus—his arms open wide in welcome, his heart aflame with love for us,” Bishop Seitz said about the destruction of the historic Sacred Heart of Jesus statue. “I would often take inspiration from this image as I prepared for Mass.”

Statues like the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue are important to communities that are used to seeing them. The destruction has left clergymen and parishioners angered and saddened by the loss of the statue. It is a historic part of the El Paso religious community having overseen masses since before World War II.

The Diocese of El Paso is raising money to help St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The funds raised by the Diocese of El Paso and the Foundation for the Diocese of El Paso will be used on the St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The money raised will be used to fix the shattered statue as well as add security and do renovations to the famed church.

“I am devastated at this irreplaceable loss as I know members of this parish community and the whole Church of El Paso will be,” Bishop Seitz said. “In this moment we will reach out in confidence to the One this statue represented and I know he will console us.”

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Latina L.A. County Deputy Was Shot In The Face But Saved Her Partner’s Life After A Gunman Ambushed Them

Things That Matter

Latina L.A. County Deputy Was Shot In The Face But Saved Her Partner’s Life After A Gunman Ambushed Them

David McNew / Getty

A shooting that occurred over the weekend in Compton, California has sparked shock, alarm, and outrage.

The shooting occurred sometime around 7 p.m. on Saturday at MLK Transit Center in Compton. According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the gunman made his way toward the passenger’s side of the deputies’ car and shot two deputies with a pistol without precedent.

One of the victims is a 31-year-old mother.

On Saturday, the sheriff’s department tweeted surveillance footage of the shooting which also captured the gunman fleeing the scene.

According to reports, the gunman fired into the deputies’ car without pretext.

“This is just a somber reminder that this is a dangerous job, and actions and words have consequences. Our job does not get any easier because people do not like law enforcement,” Alex Villanueva, the 33rd Sheriff of Los Angeles County, said in a statement. “It pisses me off. It dismays me at the same time.”

According to Villanueva, both of the deputies (Claudia Apolinar a 31-year-old mother and a 24-year-old man) were sworn in just 14 months ago and are in critical condition at the hospital. According to the sheriff’s department both are “fighting for their lives” but “it looks like they’re going to be able to recover.”

Apolinar and her partner were both shot at close range. Apolinar was shot in the face and torso and her partner sustained multiple gunshot wounds Seeing that he was in need of immediate medical treatment, Apolinar managed to make a tourniquet for him before medics arrived.

According to the New York Post, Apolinar is a former librarian who graduated from the academy last year.

“We’ll see what the long-term impact is. We don’t know that yet, but they survived the worst,” Villanueva explained.

Local officials have announced a $100,000 reward for information on the gunman and his whereabouts.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden spoke out against the attack and condemned it in a statement calling “Acts of lawlessness and violence directed against police officers are unacceptable, outrageous, and entirely counterproductive to the pursuit of greater peace and justice in America — as are the actions of those who cheer such attacks on.”

Speaking about the incident, Democratic US Rep. Adam Schiff called the attack “cowardly.”

“Every day, law enforcement officers put themselves at risk to protect our community,” Schiff stated in a post shared to Twitter. “I hope the perpetrator of this cowardly attack can be quickly brought to justice.”

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com