Texas man accused of beheading roommate sentenced to death by Tarrant County jury

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A Texas man was sentenced to death for the 2017 slayings of his roommate, who was beheaded, and the roommate’s 17-year-old girlfriend.

A jury Wednesday sentenced Hector Acosta-Ojeda, who prosecutors said was a self-proclaimed hit man for a Mexican drug cartel. Acosta-Ojeda was found guilty last week of capital murder in the killings in Arlington of Erick Zelaya and Iris Chirinos.

Prosecutors say Acosta-Ojeda shot them and then mutilated their bodies before placing them in a shallow grave in his backyard and leaving Zelaya’s head on a nearby walking trail.

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

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During the punishment phase of the trial, the prosecution introduced evidence of another capital murder Acosta was believed to have committed in a Fort Worth house. In July 2017, Acosta and accomplices bound and viciously beat Triston Algiene while robbing him. After Algiene gave them the wrong PIN number for his bank account, he was shot to death. Acosta then cut his body in half, buried him under the house and covered his body with cement. Arlington Police Detective Grant Gildon received information about this murder and informed Fort Worth Police, who discovered the body after digging up the concrete slab. The work of Gildon, fellow Arlington PD Detective Michael Barakat and Fort Worth Police Detectives Jerry Cedillo and Ernie Pate was instrumental in bringing Acosta to justice, according to the Tarrant County DA’s office.

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

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