Former TCU student pleads guilty in Pickens heroin death

A former TCU student who was accused of murder for giving a fatal injection of heroin to the grandson of billionaire T. Boone Pickens was sentenced Monday to 10 years deferred adjudication probation in a deal reached with prosecutors.

Brennan Trainor Rodriguez, 23, pleaded guilty to a charge of delivery of a controlled substance that resulted in Ty Pickens’ death.

As part of his probation, he is required to serve four months in jail.

Pickens’ family said in a statement that they are grateful prosecutors were able to secure some justice for their son without subjecting the family to “further emotional trauma” that a trial would have brought. They insist that Pickens had not previously used heroin.

“The guilty plea today reinforces what we have known all along — our son was not a heroin addict,” the statement reads.” “He was victimized by Brennan Rodriguez.”

Tom and Jennifer Pickens, Ty’s parents, alleged that Rodriguez injected their son with heroin to steal his ATM card and get money. Comerica Bank records included in the case file shows Rodriguez on camera at a Sundance Square ATM on Jan. 29, 2013, apparently withdrawing $60 from Pickens’ account.

“Had the case gone to trial, we would have introduced evidence that Brennan Rodriguez used the victim’s ATM card at around midnight on the night of the offense at a bank in downtown Fort Worth and that the money was used to purchase heroin,” Prosecutor Kevin Rousseau confirmed.

But Greg Westfall, Rodriguez’s defense attorney, said an eyewitness told police that that Ty Pickens had used heroin several times before and freely gave his ATM card and PIN number to Rodriguez.

“We feel this resolution was in the best interest of all parties,” he said. “This case is a tragedy. It’s one of those where everybody has suffered a loss. To not to have to go through a trial is great in a case like this just because trials can be so ugly.”

Rodriguez was taken into custody immediately, said Melody McDonald, a spokeswoman with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office.

“This agreement was reached after considering all the facts and consulting with the family,” Rousseau said in a statement. “No outcome can give them back their son but hopefully with this plea, they can at least begin to heal.”

The background

Rodriguez’s cousin told investigators that Rodriguez and Pickens used heroin and Xanax earlier in the day on Jan. 28, 2013, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

He said Pickens returned to Rodriguez’s apartment late that night, upset that he and an ex-girlfriend were not getting back together. He asked Rodriguez to give him “just enough” heroin to make him doze off, the affidavit states.

Rodriguez then loaded a syringe and injected heroin into Pickens’ arm, the affidavit states.

The cousin told police that he and Rodriguez then left the apartment to get more heroin. When they returned, they found Pickens passed out and sweating profusely, prompting them to shake him awake and give him water and an ice pack.

When they could not wake Pickens the next morning, the men carried him to a car. The cousin drove Pickens to a hospital while Rodriguez stayed behind to hide drugs and paraphernalia in a maintenance closet across the hall from his apartment.

The cousin told police that Rodriguez asked him to drive Pickens to the hospital because another person had overdosed on heroin at Rodriguez’s apartment a couple months earlier. In that case, 911 was called and the person survived, but Rodriguez “got in trouble,” the affidavit says.

The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office later determined that Pickens died from a heroin overdose and ruled his death accidental. The autopsy also determined that Pickens had the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam, or Xanax, in his body.

Rodriguez was arrested in March 2013, initially charged with tampering with evidence in the case.

In June 2013, a Tarrant County grand jury handed down a four-count indictment, accusing him of murder as well as three less serious felonies: manslaughter, tampering with evidence, and delivering a controlled substance that resulted in a death.

Rodriguez’s trial had been set for Dec. 1, court records show. If convicted of murder, he would have faced 5 to 99 years or life in prison.

TCU suspended Rodriguez after his arrest in the case. Holly Ellman, a TCU spokeswoman, said Monday that Rodriguez is no longer enrolled at the university.

Westfall said Rodriguez is remorseful.

“His loss is going to be having to go through probation, having to go to jail and having to know that night happened,” Westsfall said. “It’s one of those deals where he’s not a criminal There were three boys that got together. Quite frankly, any one of them could have died.”

Parents speak out

After the plea, Pickens’ mother and father gave victim impact statements in court. Copies of the statements were provided to the Star-Telegram by a family spokesman.

Jennifer Pickens spoke of how her son’s death had left the family broken and how she still grapples with waves of grief.

“The question, ‘How many children do you have?’ that once brought a flood of joyful responses now is a loaded question,” she said. “How do I respond? It’s too painful to explain.”

She said she hopes Rodriguez can turn his life around and turns to God to stop his path of destruction.

“Your actions reflect that you view life as cheap and as a game, when life is really a valuable gift that should be used to help others and glorify God,” she said. “Your sentence is light compared to what I have lost.”

Tom Pickens told Rodriguez that he is a “psychopath” who was more worried about getting in trouble than he was about getting Pickens help by calling 911.

“We were told by the doctors that, had EMS been called, Ty would be here with us today,” Tom Pickens said. “You killed my son twice, once when you injected him with a lethal poison and the other when you were more interested in saving your own hide and stealing Ty’s last chance for survival by not calling EMS.”

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