HOUSTON – State officials said Jose Gilberto Rodriguez, 46, was fulfilling all requirements of his parole right up to the time he cut an electronic ankle monitor off his leg and disappeared from an alternative housing complex where he’d been placed by parole officials.
He made his first court appearance Tuesday evening to hear the evidence against him in the death of 62-year-old Pamela Johnson, whose bound body was found in her Cypress home Friday.
Investigators said that the gun Rodriguez was found with when he was arrested was linked to Johnson's death, according to prosecutors.
When asked if he had an attorney, Rodriguez said, “Requesting to be appointed one.”
“Are you a United States citizen?” the judge asked.
“Yes,” Rodriguez replied.
The judge ordered Rodriguez held in jail without bond.
Rodriguez served 25 years in prison for sexual assault, burglary and car theft before he was sent to a halfway house under the 1977 Texas mandatory release law.
In March, he was placed in an alternative living complex in northeast Houston and began working at Tyson Foods nearby. His friend William Bowder said Rodriguez seemed to be intent on turning his life around.
“He told me he was going to move up, keep moving up in the company he was working for and try to get a car and keep making steps forward. He never gave any indication of just giving up completely,” Bowder said.
Parole officials said that, on July 5, they received an alert that the electronic ankle monitor Rodriguez was wearing had been tampered with. On July 8, an electronic alert indicated that the monitor’s battery was dying. At that point, a warrant was issued for Rodriguez's arrest.
Bowder ran into Rodriguez on a bus a few days later.
“I said, 'Where you been, Joe?' And he said, ‘Well, I cut my monitor off.’ And I said, 'Man, dude, you’re tripping.'”
Parole officals said that, immediately after the first alert, a parole officer should have attempted to make contact with Rodriguez.
Andy Kahan, with Houston Crime Stoppers, is a former parole officer.
"Obviously, there were red flags, bells were going off. So the question is: Did someone follow up on that?” Kahan said.
But Jeremy Desel, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said Wednesday that the department isn’t commenting while it conducts an internal investigation.
TDCJ data shows that there are just over 1,200 parolees in Harris County being tracked with electronic monitors. On Tuesday, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo complained the monitors aren’t trustworthy.
“These ankle monitors mean absolutely nothing. They cut them off and then we go three dead people,” Acevedo said.
Currently, there are 18,000 parolees in Harris County and 2,500 open warrants for parole violations.
Acevedo and Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said they plan to form a special task force to help serve those warrants and go after parolees who don’t follow the rules.
Editor's note: The number of capital murder charges filed in the case hs been corrected in the story above.