Closer look at Lake Worth bridge where a woman was killed
A Fort Worth man pleaded guilty Wednesday to abducting his estranged wife, tying a 119-pound chunk of concrete on her and tossing her off the Lake Worth bridge to drown.
Prosecutors had been seeking the death penalty against Rodolfo “Rudy” Arellano for the kidnapping and murder of Elizabeth Pule Arellano, with whom he had four children.
They had been preparing for a spring trial when Arellano’s defense attorneys recently told them the 36-year-old man was willing to plead guilty to capital murder in exchange for life in prison without the chance of parole.
Prosecutor Allenna Bangs said she discussed the offer with Elizabeth Arellano’s family this week, and they seemed comforted in knowing that the plea would bring with it certainty.
“The idea that he is going to admit it and he is going to say that it is him and that he is guilty brought them such a level of peace,” Bangs said. “It makes the decision for us.”
In a brief hearing Wednesday morning, Arellano made his plea before State District Judge Robb Catalano.
He will admit his guilt again next week in the same courtroom, but this time in front of family and friends of Elizabeth Arellano. Some plan to then address Arellano with victim impact statements.
Richard Henderson, Rodolfo Arellano’s defense attorney, said the plea deal was the “correct resolution” to the case.
“It was just a difficult case,” he said. “A mother has been lost and a father has been lost to the children.”
Elizabeth Arellano had vanished after a night out with colleagues.
The 28-year-old medical assistant had last been heard from when she called a co-worker to say she’d made it safely to her parents’ home in north Fort Worth in the early hours of April 16, 2016.
But when her mother awoke later that morning, she found her daughter’s car abandoned nearby with the keys still in the ignition and her purse and cellphone inside.
The mother reported her daughter missing to Fort Worth police that afternoon, unaware that her body had been pulled from Lake Worth several hours earlier after fishermen reported seeing what appeared to be a person falling from the Loop 820 bridge.
“One witness described hearing what sounded like screams on the way down,” Fort Worth homicide Detective J. Cedillo had noted in an arrest warrant affidavit.
When found, Elizabeth Arellanos’ body had a rope tied around her neck that was attached to a 119-pound piece of concrete that still encased part of a wooden fence post. She was still wearing her maroon medical scrubs.
The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office ruled her death a homicide caused by drowning.
Rodolfo Arellano was arrested 10 days later by Fort Worth police.
Though he denied killing his estranged wife to police and claimed to have been at home, phone records and surveillance video had shown him in the area of Elizabeth Arellano’s parents’ home around the time of her disappearance.
Detectives also learned Arellano had torn down a wooden fence that included wood posts anchored in concrete for an acquaintance within the past year. Chunks of concrete, similar to that used to weigh Elizabeth Arellano down, were also found in his back yard and in the bed of his pickup.
The couple had been high school sweethearts at Diamond Hill-Jarvis and had been together 13 years. But they had separated and Elizabeth Arellano had made plans to divorce her husband just prior to her murder.
“Elizabeth Arellano was a mom and a daughter and a sister and friend and the people who love her know that they can’t have her back,” Bangs, the prosecutor, said. “So knowing that he is in prison for the remainder of his natural life and that is not going to change and knowing the comfort that brought them is what puts us where we are today.”