A former Marine reservist from San Antonio known as the “suitcase killer” is set to be Texas’ fourth executed inmate on Tuesday – though his attorneys are making a last-ditch effort to halt his death.
Rosendo Rodriguez III, who turned 38 Monday, confessed to killing 29-year-old Summer Baldwin, whose battered, naked body was found stuffed into a new piece of luggage that was tossed in the trash.
Workers at the Lubbock city landfill in September 2005 spotted the suitcase and found Balwin’s corpse. She was 10 weeks pregnant at the time of her death.
Detectives used a barcode label sewn to the luggage to establish it was purchased at a local Walmart the day before. Debit card records and store surveillance video helped identify the buyer as Rodriguez.
Rodriguez lived in San Antonio with his parents and was arrested there days after Baldwin's body was discovered. Three weeks later, he gave Lubbock police a statement saying he killed her in self-defense when she pulled a knife on him after the two had consensual sex on Sept. 12, 2005, in a hotel room.
Testimony at his 2008 trial showed Baldwin had about 50 blunt force wounds and may have been alive when she was folded into the suitcase and tossed into a trash bin. The contents subsequently wound up at the city dump.
Rodriguez, who also confessed to killing 16-year-old Joanna Rogers and similarly disposing her body a year earlier, was convicted and sentenced to die for raping and killing Baldwin.
Rogers’ mummified remains were also found inside a suitcase at the city garbage dump.
Military officials at the time said Rodriguez was in Lubbock for training that included martial arts combat.
On Monday, Rodriguez’s attorneys looked to the Supreme Court to halt his execution, claiming lower courts improperly turned down appeals that focused on the medical examiner’s trial testimony about Baldwin’s autopsy and her injuries.
Attorney Seth Kretzer said the Supreme Court was his “last hope” to show Rodriguez was innocent of the heinous crimes. In filings, Kretzer sought a hearing to a recent disclosure of the settlement of a whistleblower lawsuit – which attorneys said previously was unknown to them – that alleged the coroner delegated some duties to unqualified underlings.
He said the practice raised questions about “the credibility and admissibility of the medical examiner’s testimony in this case.”
Rodriguez would be the fourth Texas inmate to be executed this year, and the seventh nationally.
Assistant Texas Attorney General Tomee Heining said the high court appeal was improper, untimely and meritless, and "nothing more than a last-ditch effort" to undermine scientific findings that were unfavorable for Rodriguez.
"He's really good at killing people," Lubbock County District Attorney Matt Powell, who prosecuted Rodriguez, said Monday. "Very calm, very calculated.”