BROWNSVILLE — The Cameron County District Attorney’s Office will not seek the death penalty against five men accused of beheading a Honduran national and dumping his body in the Laguna Madre last year.
Fishermen found the remains of Jose Francisco “Franklin” Rodriguez Palacios Paz floating in the bay in March 2015.
According to court records, state prosecutors in February filed motions to not seek the death penalty in the capital murder charges filed against Joel Luna Rodriguez, Eduardo Luna Rodriguez, Aaron Rodriguez Medellin, Nestor Manuel Leal Cedillo and Fernando Luna Rodriguez.
All have entered not-guilty pleas to charges of capital murder, murder, and two counts of engaging in criminal activity. Their trials are scheduled to begin April 25.
Court records indicate 107th state District Judge Benjamin Euresti Jr. granted motions filed by attorneys for Leal and Medellin to sever their cases from the other three men.
Palacios Paz, of Edinburg, had been reported missing four days before his body was found on March 16, 2015. Edinburg police had said Palacio Paz’s common-law wife told investigators they had been arguing before he left and never returned. She also told police that Palacios Paz was from Honduras and had been living in the country without legal status.
According to law enforcement officials, Palacios Paz was killed in Edinburg.
Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio previously said Palacios Paz had been arrested by U.S. Border Patrol agents and Edinburg police officers in prior cases and his body was identified through fingerprints. Palacios Paz’s criminal history included drug related arrests, the sheriff said.
Joel Luna Rodriguez is a former U.S. Border Patrol agent and was arrested in November 2015 after the county sheriff’s department found more than a kilogram of cocaine, $90,000 in cash, firearms and Luna’s Border Patrol badge in a safe at the home of his mother-in-law.
The five men remain in custody at the Cameron County Carrizales Rucker Detention Center in Olmito.