Crime

Arlington man found guilty of beheading roommate, shooting 17-year-old girl to death

An Arlington man accused of fatally shooting his roommate and his roommate’s girlfriend, and beheading one of the victims at an Arlington home in 2017, was found guilty Tuesday afternoon by a Tarrant County jury.

Jurors deliberated more than five hours Tuesday before reaching their decision against 30-year-old Hector Acosta after five days of testimony.

Acosta, who did not take the witness stand, had pleaded not guilty to the violent crimes.

The jury found Acosta guilty of capital murder for fatally shooting Erick “Diablo” Zelaya in 2017, and then severing his head with a machete. Seconds later, he opened fire and killed the victim’s 17-year-old girlfriend, Iris Chirinos, authorities have said.

The punishment phase of the trial starts at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Criminal District Court No. 396, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Closing arguments

On Tuesday morning, defense attorneys Bill Ray and Gary Smart stood before the jury and fought for Acosta’s life.

In closing arguments, Smart told jurors that prosecutors had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt Acosta had killed two people in 2017, saying no one had put a gun or machete in Acosta’s hand.

“We are not trying someone for running a stop sign,” Smart said Tuesday morning. “There were other people in the house.”

Richard Henderson was Acosta’s third defense attorney, but he did not give a closing argument.

Ray said authorities did not follow the rules of a Miranda warning.

“Before you rubber stamp the verdict form, look at all the testimony,” Ray told the jury.

But prosecutors said there was overwhelming evidence to convict Acosta. Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson attended the closing arguments.

“He confessed to every single aspect of this case,” prosecutor Kevin Rousseau said in closing arguments.

Fellow prosecutor Tim Rodgers said the decision for jurors was easy.

“He pumped these people full of holes,” Rodgers said. “He shot them over and over.”

The killings

The gruesome Arlington case began with the discovery of Zelaya’s severed head on Sept. 2, 2017, near a man-made walking trail not far from AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

Near the head, Arlington police found a sign written in Spanish that read,”La Raza Se Resreta y Faltan 4,” which loosely translated appears to mean, “The race, or group, must be respected and there’s only four left.”

The bodies of Zelaya and Chirinos were later found in a shallow grave in the back yard of an Arlington home.

Acosta fired two shots into the head of Zelaya, his roommate, while he was asleep because the victim had confessed to being one of the gunmen who had shot at Acosta’s Arlington home in May 2017, a prosecutor told the jury in an opening statement last week.

Acosta also faces another violent crime charge in the robbery and killing of Triston Ray Algiene in July 2017 in Fort Worth.

Acosta and another man, Felipe Eduardo Ortiz, are charged with Algiene’s murder. Algiene’s body — cut in half and concealed under a repair patch in a home’s foundation — was found Oct. 3, 2017, inside a vacant house in the 6400 block of Woodway Drive in southwest Fort Worth.

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