Suspected Houston serial killer Jose Gilberto Rodriguez arrested after 'cutting off ankle tag'

Emily Shugerman
This undated photo provided by the Harris County Sheriff's Office in Houston shows Jose Gilberto Rodriguez: Harris County Sheriff's Office via AP

A suspected serial killer wanted in connection with three Houston-area murders has been arrested thanks to a tip from a local resident, authorities said.

Forty-six-year-old Jose Gilberto Rodriguez – a registered sex offender out on parole – was arrested on Tuesday, after police say he cut off his ankle monitoring bracelet and engaged in a spree of murders and robberies.

Authorities launched a manhunt for Mr Rodriguez on Monday, after identifying him using local mall surveillance footage. Police at the time said the suspect had “been on a rampage” and should be considered armed and dangerous.

A local tipster called in a suspicious vehicle on Tuesday morning, which turned out to be the Nissan Sentra that the suspect was driving.

“It’s possible he was casing the neighbourhood in search of his next victim,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said at a press conference. “So thanks to the alert work of that citizen and swift action, we were able to get involved.”

Mr Rodriguez was arrested around 7am local time, after what police said was a 15-minute car chase. Authorities discovered a pistol in his car, which they believed belonged to one of his victims.

Police began warning of a “possible serial killer” on Monday night, after two bodies were discovered at two different mattress stores over the weekend. The body of 28-year-old Allie Barrow was discovered at the mattress store where she worked on Saturday. Police found the body of an unidentified man at another mattress store on Monday.

Mr Rodriguez is also a suspect in the murder of 62-year-old Pamela Johnson last Friday, police said. Her body was discovered in her Harris County home after her family told authorities they were unable to reach her.

Police identified Mr Rodriguez as the man spotted driving Ms Johnson’s car in mall surveillance footage. The suspect allegedly parked her car in the mall parking lot, walked through the building, and exited on the other side. He may have left other vehicles used in the crime spree at the mall as well, authorities said.

Mr Rodriguez is also a suspect in the robbery and wounding of a Metro bus driver on Monday, and in a home invasion a week before. He has previously been convicted of burglary, attempted aggravated sex abuse, auto theft, and criminal trespassing, according to ABC News. He was released on parole last September.

Police have not released a motive in the killings, or any details to connect them. Mr Rodriguez has yet to be charged with a crime.

Meanwhile, the mattress store where Ms Barrow worked announced its stores in the area would remain closed on Tuesday.

“Our hearts are heavy after hearing of another senseless act of violence at a peer mattress company in Houston on the heels of this weekend’s tragic event,” Mattress Firm CEO Steve Stagner said in a statement.

“Out of an abundance of caution and for the safety of our associates, we are closing Houston-area Mattress Firm stores until we can more fully assess the situation.”