A man who allegedly killed a Texas mother and then dismembered her with a chainsaw is behind bars after being on the run for five years.
Erik Arceneaux, 51, was charged in 2019 with murder in the disappearance of 29-year-old Maria Jimenez-Rodriguez, who was last seen five years ago. Mr Arceneaux was captured just last week.
“It’s been five years of torture, five years of tears,” Jimenez-Rodriguez’s sister Gloria Jimenez, said at a press conference on Friday. “I’m very relieved that he is finally in jail.”
At a hearing on Tuesday, a judge set Mr Arceneaux’s bond at $1m. He is currently being held in the Harris County Jail.
Jimenez-Rodriguez was last seen on the morning of 21 June 2018 when she dropped her daughter off at the babysitter’s house in Houston on the way to work.
But Jimenez-Rodriguez, who was working as a paralegal at the Milledge Law Firm at the time, never arrived at the office.
Jimenez-Rodriguez’s boss Samuel Milledge told Houston’s KPRC-TV at the time,
“There was a text message reported to be from her, but it didn’t seem like her.”
All three texts were sent on 21 June from Jimenez-Rodriguez’s phone with one of them apologizing for her absence and the last one, sent around 6.19pm, saying she was being followed by three men, according to a Houston Police Department homicide detective’s probable cause affidavit obtained by HuffPost. Her body has never been found.
Jimenez-Rodriguez was reported missing when her daughter’s babysitter alerted a family member that the child had not been picked up at the end of the day and had not responded to repeated phone calls.
Her truck was later found abandoned near a railyard in northeast Houston just blocks from the babysitter’s home, but her cell phone and purse were missing, according to the affidavit.
Mr Arceneaux, who was questioned by police at the time, said Jimenez-Rodriguez was his girlfriend and that he had last seen her on the night of 20 June. She was supposed to pick him the following morning for a job interview, but never showed up, he told police.
However, Jimenez-Rodriguez’s sister Gloria told Houston Fox 26 that the two were not a couple and Arceneaux was a trainer at her gym who had been stalking her sister.
“She never said that she had a boyfriend. She would go to the gym. What I know is that he’s her trainer and, what I’ve learned is that, he kept like texting her and sending her notes,” she added.
Court documents revealed both Jimenez-Rodriguez’s and Mr Arceneaux’s phones had traveled together throughout the day, ending at a Home Depot store around 6.30pm.
Surveillance video from the store allegedly showed Mr Arceneaux arriving at the store alone and then at the cash register where he bought an electric chainsaw and a box of 42-gallon industrial trash bags.
Phone data and video footage also placed Arceneaux at the scene where Jimenez-Rodriguez’s vehicle was found with video showing it circling the area before a man, later identified as Mr Arceneaux, is seen walking away from it.
Both phones were tracked to Mr Arceneaux’s home where Luminol testing that was later performed showed evidence of blood on the walls and ceiling of his bedroom that was attempted to be cleaned, police said.
An arrest warrant was issued for Mr Arceneaux’s arrest in August 2019, but the man fled and could not be located for years. Until last week, when he was arrested by US Marshals outside a business in southeast Houston.
Following the news of the long-awaited arrest, Jimenez-Rodriguez’s family gathered to express their relief. But said that it’s now time to find their loved one’s body and put her to rest.
“I think it’s time to get answers and it’s time for him to open up and touch his heart, if he has one, and say where Maria’s at,” sister Gloria Jiminez said. "Give us that information so we can have closure.”