HOUSTON – A man who was charged in the death of a northeast Houston woman who went missing in 2018 has been arrested.
Erik Fardell Arceneaux, 51, was booked into the Harris County Jail on Thursday. He was charged with murder in the death of Maria Jimenez-Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, 29, was reported missing on June 21, 2018, when she vanished after dropping her daughter off at a babysitter’s house in the 6900 block of Texarkana Street in northeast Houston.
According to authorities, Jimenez-Rodriguez did not show up to work the next day but sent multiple texts to a co-worker saying the babysitter told her to pick her daughter back up and another that said she thought someone was following her.
“There was a text message reported to be from her, but it didn’t seem like her,” said Samuel Milledge, the family’s spokesman and Jimenez-Rodriquez’s boss. “And again, in doing further investigation, we checked with the babysitter. The babysitter said she never called and told Maria to come pick her daughter up.”
Her vehicle was found the day after Jimenez-Rodriguez was reported missing about three miles from the babysitter’s house, where she was last seen. Both her purse and cell phone were missing.
The victim’s family said Arceneaux was Rodriguez’ trainer and they are not sure if they were in a romantic relationship, however, court documents said that Arceneaux, who police said was her then-boyfriend, had been charged with murder in connection with her disappearance. Investigators said they have not seen or spoken to Arceneaux since July of 2018 but they say they have evidence that supports he killed Maria, dismembered her body with a chainsaw, and disposed of it.
Arceneaux’s daughter from a previous relationship told authorities that her father used to beat her now-deceased mother and that she thought Jimenez-Rodriguez was trying to end her relationship with Arceneaux, documents said.
Arceneaux had told authorities he had not seen Jimenez-Rodrigues since June 20, 2018, but during the investigation, police found surveillance footage that showed her vehicle driving in the direction of Arceneaux’s home the day she disappeared.
Authorities said they also looked at phone tower records and determined Jimenez-Rodriguez’s phone had been with Arceneaux’s phone on the day she disappeared, according to the documents. Court records showed the phones stayed together throughout the day on June 21, and they were at the location where Jimenez-Rodriguez’s car was abandoned around 5 p.m.
Police said surveillance video caught Jimenez-Rodriguez’s vehicle around that time and Arceneaux was seen in the same footage shortly after walking in the opposite direction of the vehicle, according to court documents.
Jimenez-Rodriguez’s phone was turned off and when it was turned back on later that day, phone records showed both phones traveled to a Home Depot where Arceneaux was seen on surveillance footage walking in the store alone and purchasing an electric chainsaw and contractor trash bags, court documents revealed.
It was also during the drive to Home Depot that the text message about someone following her was sent from Jimenez-Rodriguez’s phone, according to court documents.
Authorities searched Arceneaux’s home and found evidence of blood on the walls and ceiling of the bedroom, but the blood was not suitable for DNA testing, court documents revealed.
Police believe Arceneaux is to blame for Jimenez-Rodriguez’s death and he attempted to establish an alibi by using her cellphone to send text messages, according to court documents.
Arceneaux was taken into custody on Thursday by members of the U.S. Marshals’ Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force outside a business in the 9500 block of Rowlett Road near the Gulf Freeway.
His bond is set at $250,000.
“This family was living on the edge every single day. And yesterday, thankfully, they got the phone call they’d been waiting for for over five years,” said Andy Kahan, the Crime Victim Director with Crime Stoppers.
KPRC 2 Legal Analyst Brian Wice said Arceneaux can still be convicted without a body.
“The law in Texas does not require 12-00-01 as long as the prosecution meets each and every element in a murder case that the defendant knowingly and intentionally caused the death of another human being or engaged in conduct that caused the substantial risk of serious bodily injury with death resulting. That’s all that the prosecution needs to prove,” said Wice.