Jury Convicts Self-Proclaimed Cartel Hitman Who Killed, Mutilated Roommate and His Girlfriend

Man suspected of killing another man, cutting him in half and burying him under a Fort Worth house

A North Texas man described as "extraordinarily violent" and one who "deals in terror" has been sentenced to death for fatally shooting and mutilating the bodies of his roommate and his roommate's girlfriend.

The Tarrant County jurors, who deliberated for more than five hours last week before finding Hector Acosta-Ojeda guilty of capital murder in the September 2017 killings of Erick Zelaya and his 17-year-old girlfriend Iris Chirinos, took another four hours Wednesday to decide to sentence him to death.

"Some people can get better. Some are just bad," prosecutor Tim Rodgers said of Acosta in a statement Wednesday.

Acosta and Zelaya were roommates, though he claimed to have killed the couple as retaliation for a past drive-by in which he believed Zelaya was a participant.

Prosecutors said Acosta shot Zelaya and Chirinos in their sleep and mutilated their bodies with a machete and a 2x4 before decapitating him and leaving both bodies in a shallow grave. Zelaya's head was left blocks away near a sign warning of future violence.

"Have you ever knowingly in your life sat in the room with a more dangerous person?" lead prosecutor Kevin Rousseau asked the jury Wednesday during closing arguments for the punishment phase of the trial. "He is extraordinarily violent. He deals in terror. It's his job."

Prosecutors said Acosta was a self-proclaimed sicario (hitman) for the Cartel del Noreste and he is believed to have killed at least one other person, Triston Algiene, whose body was found cut in half and buried under a house in Fort Worth.

Rodgers said Acosta was "not a product of a bad environment. He is the bad element in his environment. That's what he is and what he wants to be."

Prosecutors said Acosta entered gang life in Monterrey, Mexico as a child and later participated in gangs in Mexico and Houston before joining the Cartel del Noreste. Prosecutors said Acosta claimed to have committed kidnappings, tortures and other murders and that while awaiting trial he tried to start a drug trafficking operation in jail.

Acosta, who is being sent to death row, will be turned over to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and will be transferred to the Polunsky Unit in West Livingston where he will be held until he is executed in Huntsville.

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