LAS VEGAS – A death penalty trial has begun in Las Vegas for a Nevada ex-convict accused of plotting with his girlfriend the ambush slaying of her husband, a U.S. Air Force service member and Iraq War veteran from Guam.
Michael Rudolph Rodriguez, 36, waited outside the couple's southeast Las Vegas home and shot Staff Sgt. Nathan Paet five times as Paet headed to work at Nellis Air Force Base late Dec. 1, 2010, prosecutor Frank Coumou told a jury during opening arguments on Monday.
Police said Paet, wearing in his camouflage uniform, was shot several times in the back before stumbling from his garage into his home and collapsing in front of his wife, Michelle Antwanette Paet, and their four children. He died later at a hospital.
Coumou told jurors that Michelle Paet had alerted Rodriguez by text message when her husband was leaving the house. "He's rushing to get out the door. Lol," one message said.
Michelle Paet, now 33, is scheduled for trial later this month. Two co-defendants, Jessica Ashley and Corry Hawkins, also await trial. Each has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, murder and burglary with a weapon.
Neighbors reported seeing a black Cadillac leave the scene of the shooting, and police said a witness told them that Rodriguez went to Ashley and Hawkins' apartment and burned his clothes in their fireplace.
Rodriguez's public defense attorney, Alzora Jackson, told the Clark County District Court jury that Rodriguez had nothing to gain from killing Nathan Paet. But police reported that Michelle Paet stood to receive a $400,000 from the military, and took out another $250,000 life insurance policy on her husband.
Police said Michelle Paet told investigators that she and Rodriguez began planning the slaying in October 2010, and they planned to be together afterward.
Nathan Paet was an F-15 supply technician with the 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. He and Michelle Paet were high school sweethearts. He joined the Air Force in 2002. The couple married in 2006.
Rodriguez, a two-time felon convicted of attempted forgery charges in 2007 and 2008, worked with Michelle Paet at a telemarketing company in Las Vegas, according to arrest records.
Rodriguez told police he was having sex another woman at a Las Vegas casino-hotel at the time of the shooting. But that woman told police that Rodriguez asked her to be his alibi and told her he was set to receive up to $5,000 for the killing.