Texas executes 'suitcase killer' for murder of prostitute


Rosendo Rodriguez, who was convicted of murder, was put to death by lethal injection at the state's death chamber in Huntsville, Texas.
Rosendo Rodriguez, who was convicted of murder, was put to death by lethal injection at the state's death chamber in Huntsville, Texas.PHOTO: REUTERS

AUSTIN (REUTERS) - Texas executed a man on Tuesday (March 27) who was convicted of murder for suffocating a prostitute, placing her lifeless body in a suitcase and tossing it into a garbage dumpster in 2005.

Rosendo Rodriguez, who turned 38 on Monday, was put to death by lethal injection at the state's death chamber in Huntsville, a prisons official said.

The execution was the seventh this year in the United States and the fourth in Texas, which has executed more inmates than any state since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Attorneys for Rodriguez had filed a last-ditch appeal to spare his life, seeking judicial review after they questioned the integrity and findings of medical examiners in Lubbock relating to the autopsy on the victim, Summer Baldwin, 29. The US Supreme Court denied the appeal less than an hour before the planned execution.

The body of Baldwin, described by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals as "a drug-addicted prostitute," was found in a suitcase in a Lubbock landfill in September 2005. A police investigation found the suitcase had been recently purchased and paid for by a debit card belonging to Rodriguez, court papers showed.

Baldwin's blood was later found in a hotel room where Rodriguez had stayed. Rodriguez, later dubbed "the suitcase killer" was arrested and confessed to police, prosecutors said.

In a police statement admitted at trial, Rodriguez said he had sexual intercourse with the victim and placed her in a choke-hold until she lost consciousness and had no pulse. He then purchased the suitcase, stuffed Baldwin inside and threw the suitcase into a dumpster, prosecutors said.

He also admitted to murdering Joanna Rogers, 16, in 2004, stuffing her body in a suitcase and throwing the it away, prosecutors said. His death sentence was for Baldwin's murder.

Lawyers for Rodriguez had asked for a new autopsy for Baldwin after it was reported that she may have died from blunt force trauma, saying her death could have come from a trash compactor and not from their client.

Lawyers for Texas said the exact manner of death does not matter because it was Rodriguez's actions that directly led to Baldwin's death.

"Demonstrating that Rodriguez did not cause the blunt force injuries does not negate the fact that he asphyxiated her and then placed her in harm's way," they said in court filings.