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A 79-year-old South Plains man was ambushed and his body dumped north of Lubbock in a case involving seven suspects including two women, according to a warrant. The suspects wanted the victim’s monthly benefit check, the warrant says.
The victim’s cane and one of the shoes he had been wearing when he was last seen were found in his vehicle, which had been stolen and later abandoned near Temple.
Three of the seven people, Brett Garza, 33, David Hampton, 53, and Heather Casias, 32, face murder charges in the beating death of Celestino Rodriguez of Slaton, according to the arrest warrant obtained on Wednesday by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The seven people who authorities believe are involved in the case have been arrested.
The other people arrested in the case are Toby Daughtry, 39, of Lubbock; Amanda Blagburn, 33, of Lubbock; Freddie Salinas, 39, of Abernathy; and James Andrew Anderson, 26.
Daughtry and Blagburn face charges of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, Anderson faces an abuse of corpse charge, and Salinas is expected to be charged with tampering with evidence, authorities said.
A Silver Alert had been issued for Rodriguez, who was last seen at his Slaton home about 10 a.m. on Aug. 3.
His daughter told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal her father, who was diabetic, was going to Lubbock to run an errand. Slaton is about 17 miles southeast of Lubbock.
Rodriguez was driving a 2014 white Chrysler 200.
The warrant gave this brief account of the homicide:
In early August, Casias met with Garza, and proposed a plan to rob Rodriguez, who she knew was about to receive a monthly government check.
Casias and Rodriguez had known each other for several months.
Casias also told a witness that she wanted to “get him (Rodriguez) and get him good” a day before Rodriguez went missing.
Garza recruited Hampton to help in the robbery, and the two waited at a location where Casias lured Rodriguez on Aug. 3. At that location, Casias stood by and watched as Garza and Hampton beat Rodriguez until he was unresponsive, according to the warrant. The Slaton man died a short time later and his body was moved to a cotton field west of Lubbock after the suspects took his wallet and debit card. Casias provided them with Rodriguez’s PIN number to his debit card.
Rodriguez’s debit card was used in businesses in Lubbock just four hours after he was last seen. Investigators tracked down the transactions and identified Garza, Hampton and Anderson as the people accused of using the debit card.
Shortly after the killing, Hampton gave the car to Daughtry in Lubbock. Hampton told Daughtry “they” had beaten an old man and left him in the country outside of Lubbock.
Just days after the killing, Casias was interviewed by authorities about Rodriguez’s disappearance. She became worried and they (Casias and Garza) decided to move Rodriguez’s body.
Garza and Anderson went back to where Rodriguez’s body had been left, loaded his body into a vehicle and drove to Abernathy, which is about 20 miles north of Lubbock. Anderson contacted Salinas to help and all three moved the body to a field near County Road 315 and County Road K, northwest of Abernathy.
Deputies with the Milam County Sheriff’s Office received information on Aug. 7 about a vehicle that was found abandoned and could be owned by Rodriguez. The vehicle was found between Gause and Branchville southeast of Temple.
On Aug. 8, detectives interviewed a witness who said he had seen Rodriguez’s vehicle in the backyard of a friend who went by the name of ‘Toby.” “Toby” told him he got the vehicle from someone who beat up an old man and left him in a field.
That same day Milam deputies responded to a call about a man who was later identified as Toby Daughtry walking along a roadway in the county. Deputies also received a call from Blagburn, who was walking on a road near Rockdale.
Daughtry told authorities he and Blagburn had driven the stolen vehicle to Milam County, but they were later told by Hampton to get rid of the car. Blagburn later wiped the car down to hide any fingerprint evidence that may have been on the vehicle.
Shortly after those interviews, authorities began arresting suspects.
In an Aug. 15 interview, Garza admitted to the attack on Rodriguez. Last week, he led authorities to Rodriguez’s body.
Casias, Garza, Hampton, Daughtry and Blagburn were in the Lubbock County Jail on Wednesday.