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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.