Self-proclaimed cartel hitman sentenced to death for double murder, beheading roommate

A jury in Texas has handed down a death sentence for a self-proclaimed Mexican drug cartel hitman who was convicted in the 2017 murders of his roommate, who was beheaded, and the roommate’s 17-year-old girlfriend.

Hector Acosta-Ojeda, originally from Mexico, was sentenced Wednesday in a Tarrant County court a week after he was found guilty of capital murder in the killings of Erick Zelaya and Iris Chirinos. His citizenship status wasn’t immediately clear.

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Acosta-Ojeda shot Zelaya and Chirinos in their sleep at the Arlington home they shared in September 2017, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. He beheaded Zelaya and mutilated the couple’s bodies with a machete and two-by-four.

He buried the bodies in a shallow grave in his backyard and left on a bicycle with Zelaya’s head. He brought Zelaya’s head to a walking trail near AT&T Stadium in Arlington, where he left it alongside a sign that threatened more violence, KTVT-TV reported.

The jury deliberated for just over four hours before handing down a death sentence, local news media reported.

The jury deliberated for just over four hours before handing down a death sentence, local news media reported. (Associated Press / Google Earth)

“He is extraordinarily violent,” lead prosecutor Kevin Rousseau told the jury in closing arguments. “He deals in terror. It’s his job.”

Prosecutors said Acosta-Ojeda called the killings retribution for a past drive-by shooting he believed Zelaya participated in.

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Defense attorneys had asked for a life sentence, saying Acosta-Ojeda grew up surrounded by violence in Monterrey, Mexico, and a brain injury may have affected him.

“Some people can get better,” prosecutor Tim Rodgers said. “Some are just bad.”

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The jury deliberated for just over four hours before handing down the sentence, the station reported. If the jury couldn’t agree on death, Acosta-Ojeda would have received a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.