Donna man accused of quadruple homicide tied to violent crime spree

Jesus Carlos Rodriguez, 43, of Weslaco is arraigned by judge Juan JJ Peña at the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s detention center on Sunday. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

The 43-year-old man who the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office charged with ordering a hit on a witness who was set to testify against him while he was in jail — a hit which resulted in the deaths of four women in a case of mistaken identity nearly 20 years ago  — is also tied to a turn-of-the-century spree of gang violence that resulted in death sentences and at least 10 murders.

The sheriff’s office booked Jesus Carlos Rodriguez, of Donna, last Sunday on charges of capital murder of multiple persons, engaging in organized criminal activity and two counts of criminal attempt murder.

Rodriguez had just finished serving time in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice when the sheriff’s office picked him up and charged him with the deaths of the four women on Sept. 5, 2002, in an area south of Business 83 on Valley View Road in Donna.

The Monitor requested a copy of the probable cause affidavit against Rodriguez, which accuses him of the deaths of Maria De La Luz Bazaldua Cobbarubias, Danitzene Lizeth Vasquez Beltran, Celina Linares Sanchez and Lourdes Yesenia Araujo Torres, but the county requested an opinion from the Texas Attorney General’s Office on whether the document is subject to public disclosure.

The county argues that since a surviving victim was a minor nearly two decades ago, Texas Family Code shields the document from release.

The Texas Family Code says information about juveniles is confidential and not subject to disclosure.

Due to the nature of the allegations against Rodriguez and the current stage of the investigation, The Monitor is not identifying the surviving victims.

It’s also not immediately clear what Rodriguez was serving time for, though Hidalgo County court records indicate that in 2002 he pleaded guilty to two counts of attempt to commit murder and two counts of capital murder levied in three indictments.

Those records say Rodriguez was sentenced to 20 years on the attempted murder charges and 25 years on the capital murder charges.

County jail records show Donna police arrested Rodriguez in 2000 and 2001 on attempted murder charges and also a charge of murder in 2001.

Those discrepancies in the near two-decade-old records aren’t immediately clear.

The Monitor also filed a Texas Public Information Act request for Rodriguez’s 2001 murder arrest, but has not yet heard back from the county on that request.

Appeals, however, filed by Robert Gene Garza, 30, who the state of Texas executed in 2013, and Rodolfo Alvarez Medrano, 41, who is currently on Death Row, help piece together the allegations.

Those men along with nine others were all charged with one of the most heinous crimes in recent memory: the Edinburg Massacre.

On Jan. 4, 2003, just after midnight, four or five men who were all members of the Tri-City Bombers gang burst into a home at 2915 E. Monte Cristo Road to steal marijuana and shot six men to death after suspecting they were members of the Texas Chicano Brotherhood, a rival gang.

In the following weeks, authorities arrested a total of 11 gang members, three of whom were sentenced to death in the case.

Along with Medrano, Humberto Garza, 41, a high-ranking gang member, and Juan Cordova, 51, are all currently on death row for the Edinburg Massacre.

It was during those interrogations that police learned Rodriguez had ordered a hit on the owner of Garcia’s Bar in Donna, who had witnessed him shoot the relative of a rival gang member in 2001 during an ongoing violent dispute between gangs.

After Medrano’s arrest for his role in the Edinburg Massacre, investigators asked him whether he knew anything about the Donna shooting deaths of the four women.

“Detective Ramirez also asked appellant what he knew about the ‘shootings in Donna.’ Appellant said, ‘It was a hit gone bad.’ Appellant explained that Carlos Rodriguez, a jailed ‘lieutenant’ in the Tri-City Bombers, had ordered a hit on a bar owner in Donna because she was the main witness in an attempted-murder case against him. Rodriguez ordered the hit from the county jail,” the appellate court ruling in Medrano’s case stated.

According to that document, Medrano said that Garza and two other gang members carried it out, “but they ‘were all messed up’ and killed the waitresses ‘by mistake.’ Appellant stated, ‘We were all upset because [Carlos Rodriguez] just jumped the gun, you know, without even consulting with Gallo.’ He explained that ‘everything gets messed up’ when there is no chain of command.”

Gallo is the nickname of 41-year-old Humberto Garza, who at the time was a captain in the gang and is now on death row for the Edinburg Massacre.

During the punishment phase of Medrano’s trial, he explained that Rodriguez was arrested for shooting a man who was related to a rival gang member named Coco at Garcia’s Bar.

“The rival gang responded by shooting at Roach’s house, and Roach retaliated in the same fashion when he was out on bond. Roach told appellant beforehand that he was going to ‘take care of business,’ and appellant understood that to mean that Roach was going to shoot them,” the appellate ruling stated.

Roach is Rodriguez’s nickname.

After retaliating, Medrano said that Rodriguez turned himself in and while awaiting trial in the Hidalgo County jail, he ordered the gang to kill Coco, the rival gang member, and a woman who witnessed the shooting.

“But appellant explained, ‘We saw no reason to kill these people if Roach was going to plead out,” the court document says.

According to Medrano, Rodriguez then acted on his own to have the bar owner killed.

And the appeal for Garza, the man who was executed, provides more insight into the night of the shooting.

“When the bar closed at midnight, Cobbarubias gave the other women a ride to their railer home. She drove south on Business 83, turned onto Valley View Road, and then parked close to the women’s trailer. Before anyone had a chance to get out of the vehicle, shots were fired. Cobbarubias, Beltran, Sanchez, and Torres sustained multiple gunshot wounds and died from their injuries,’ the document stated.

There were two other women in the car, one of whom was a minor, according to the county’s request to the AG. One of them sustained a gunshot to their leg and the other woman was uninjured.

Investigators at the scene recovered 61 bullet casings.

Initially, detectives suspected the shooters were bar patrons and interviewed numerous people and followed up on numerous tips, but the investigation went nowhere.

“However, this investigation did not lead anywhere, and after a few weeks they were left with no suspects,” the appellate ruling stated.

In 2003, however, investigators began to suspect members of the Tri-City Bombers and after the Edinburg Massacre, the case broke wide open for authorities.

Both appellate rulings for Garza and Medrano name numerous individuals who police suspected in the Donna killings and at least three others who Garza said were present.

However, those individuals are only identified by nickname or last name.

The Monitor was unable to identify whether any other suspects, aside from Garza, and now Rodriguez, were ever charged or convicted for the murders.

As for Rodriguez, defense attorney Rubio O. Salinas Jr. filed a motion last Monday  asking a judge to grant the man a reasonable bond.

He remains jailed on a total of $3 million in bonds.