Hector Acosta-Ojeda, a self-identified hitman for the Cartel Del Noreste, was sentenced to death in Tarrant County this week for the murder of his roommate and his roommate’s 17-year-old girlfriend in September 2017.
After fatally shooting Erick Zelaya and Iris Chirinos while they slept in their Arlington home, Acosta-Ojeda reportedly mutilated the couple’s bodies with a machete and a two-by-four, beheaded Zelaya, and buried the two in a shallow grave in the backyard of the house.
Acosta-Ojeda then fled the scene on a bicycle and left Zelaya’s decapitated head on a walking trail near AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, with a sign threatening more violence.
Before joining the Cartel Del Noreste, the self-proclaimed hitman was allegedly involved with other gangs in both Mexico and Houston and claimed to have committed kidnappings, tortures, and other murders.
Described by prosecutors as “extraordinarily violent,” additional evidence was given connecting Acosta-Ojeda to another murder in July 2017, in which he and other accomplices robbed, beat, and murdered Triston Algiene after the victim gave the wrong PIN number to his bank account.
Collaboration between the Arlington and Fort Worth police departments led to the discovery of Algiene’s body, cut in half, and covered with cement under a house in Fort Worth.
Evidence was also given to to suggest Acosta-Ojeda tried to initiate drug-trafficking operations while in prison awaiting his trial.
According to prosecutors, Acosta-Ojeda’s motives for the murder were based on a belief of his then-roommate’s connection to a drive-by shooting for which Ocosta-Ojeda sought retribution.
Attorneys for Acosta-Ojeda’s argued for a life sentence, as opposed to the death penalty, attributing his violent behavior to his upbringing in Monterrey, Mexico and his being surrounded by violence at an early age.
After just over four hours of deliberation, however, the jury delivered the death penalty to Acosta-Ojeda.
Earlier this month, Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX-21) urged the Department of State through a proposed piece of legislation to identify certain Mexican cartels, including the Cartel Del Noreste faction of Los Zetas, as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).
In doing so, the FTO designation would prevent cartel members and affiliates from entering the United States, restricting resources and funding from external sources, and give the Department of the Treasury to freeze their assets.
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Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.