Man who cut off his ankle monitor suspected in 3 killings

HOUSTON (AP) — A Houston-area parolee who cut off an ankle monitor days before the start of a criminal rampage now faces capital murder charges in two killings — and possibly a third — after a manhunt led to his capture Tuesday, authorities said.

Jose Gilberto Rodriguez, 46, has been charged with one capital murder count each in the shooting deaths of Pamela Johnson and Allie Barrow. Johnson, 62, was found dead Friday in her Cypress-area home, and Barrow, 28, was found dead Saturday inside a Houston mattress store.

Rodriguez, who has a lengthy criminal history, could be charged with a third capital murder count Wednesday in the fatal shooting of a man Monday inside another mattress store in Houston, said Sgt. David Crane of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities have not identified the third victim.

The killing rampage so alarmed the community that one mattress retail chain, Mattress Firm, closed its Houston-area stores Tuesday, television station KHOU reported. The station reports the chain will reopen those stores Wednesday.

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The suspect’s criminal history dates back to at least 1989 when he was charged with a variety of offenses that include attempted aggravated sexual abuse, burglary and auto theft. He spent decades in state prison and while there was convicted of possession of a deadly weapon. He was released on parole in September and was being tracked by an ankle monitor that Rodriguez cut off days before the July 9 start of the rampage, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said.

Sheriff’s deputies acting on a tip from a caller arrested Rodriguez after the caller spotted a Nissan Sentra that authorities had said was being driven by Rodriguez. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office was notified and a deputy attempted to stop the Sentra, but it sped away, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said. The car came to a stop after a chase lasting about 15 minutes and Rodriguez was taken into custody, he said. A handgun was found in the car, which police say was stolen from one of his victims.

“It’s possible that he was looking to score his next victim so we’re very relieved, very thankful to the citizens of Harris County for calling in, for being diligent and reporting this to us so that we could take action,” Gonzalez said during a news conference.

Rodriguez also is a suspect in the robbery, shooting and wounding of a Metro bus driver on Monday and a home invasion robbery on July 9, investigators said. They believe that they have evidence linking Rodriguez to the crimes, but they are not elaborating.

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The Houston police chief expressed frustration at a Tuesday news conference with the low bonds, if any, that were being ordered for violent criminals who violate paroles in the Houston area and across Texas. Acevedo promised to create a task force of law enforcement agencies throughout Harris County to recommend to the Texas Legislature changes to tighten the system.

For instance, Acevedo wants police to be authorized to search all parolees they encounter for drugs and weapons.

“We are going to be like flies on stink on parolees,” he said. “They are not going to like us.”