March 27, 2018 / 10:17 AM / 8 months ago

Texas executes 'suitcase killer' for murder of prostitute

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas executed a man on Tuesday who was convicted of murder for suffocating a prostitute, placing her lifeless body in a suitcase and tossing it into a garbage dumpster in 2005.

Texas death row inmate Rosendo Rodriguez appears in a booking photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, March 27, 2018. Texas Department of Criminal Justice/Handout via REUTERS

Rosendo Rodriguez, who turned 38 on Monday, was put to death by lethal injection at the state’s death chamber in Huntsville, a prisons official said.

The execution was the seventh this year in the United States and the fourth in Texas, which has executed more inmates than any state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Attorneys for Rodriguez had filed a last-ditch appeal to spare his life, seeking judicial review after they questioned the integrity and findings of medical examiners in Lubbock relating to the autopsy on the victim, Summer Baldwin, 29. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the appeal less than an hour before the planned execution.

Texas argued the exact cause of Baldwin’s death as determined by a medical examiner does not mitigate the fact that Rodriguez’s actions directly led to her death.

The body of Baldwin, described by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals as “a drug-addicted prostitute,” was found in a suitcase in a Lubbock landfill in September 2005. A police investigation found the suitcase had been recently purchased and paid for by a debit card belonging to Rodriguez, court papers showed.

Baldwin’s blood was later found in a hotel room where Rodriguez had stayed. Rodriguez, later dubbed “the suitcase killer” was arrested and confessed to police, prosecutors said.

In his last statement, he offered thanks to prison staff and said the lives of his fellow death row inmates are worth knowing about.

“Today is the day I join my God and father. The state may have my body but not my soul,” Rodriguez was quoted as saying by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

“Lastly, I want everyone to boycott every single business in the state of Texas until all the businesses are pressed to stop the death penalty,” he was quoted as saying.

In a police statement admitted at trial, Rodriguez said he had sexual intercourse with the victim and placed her in a choke-hold until she lost consciousness and had no pulse. He then purchased the suitcase, stuffed Baldwin inside and threw the suitcase into a dumpster, prosecutors said.

He also admitted to murdering Joanna Rogers, 16, in 2004, stuffing her body in a suitcase and throwing the it away, prosecutors said. His death sentence was for Baldwin’s murder.

Editing by James Dalgleish and Sandra Maler

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