Man convicted of killing San Antonio couple, 90-year-old friend, set for execution Wednesday

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This undated handout photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Arnold Prieto. Prieto is scheduled to be executed Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015, for the 1993 slayings of three people during a robbery in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Texas Department of Criminal Justice)


HUNTSVILLE, Texas — The killings of a San Antonio couple and a 90-year-old family friend, each stabbed or cut up to 31 times, went unsolved for about seven months before an informant's tip sent detectives to a relative 300 miles away.

A grandnephew of the slain couple implicated himself, his brother and a friend, Arnold Prieto, in the attack with an icepick, screwdriver or knife that killed Rodolfo Rodriguez, 72, his wife, Virginia, 62, and Paula Moran, 90, whom they cared for at their home.

Prieto, 41, was set to be executed Wednesday for the slayings more than 21 years ago. No appeals to halt the punishment were in the courts Tuesday.

The lethal injection will be the first this year in Texas. Two more are scheduled for next week.

Prieto was arrested with brothers Guadalupe and Jesse Hernandez, who were the grandnephews of the Rodriguezes. Moran had been nanny to that couple's children.

Authorities said Prieto told them he and the brothers drove to San Antonio early on Sept. 12, 1993, to rob the couple they believed had about $10,000 used for a checking-cashing business they operated out of their home. Court documents show Prieto had financial problems and the Hernandez brothers talked often about their rich uncle in San Antonio.

Prieto told police the three had been using cocaine and continued to do so during their drive to San Antonio. Virginia Rodriguez fed them breakfast after they arrived. Then she, her husband and Moran were attacked. The assailants fled with some jewelry and a purse containing about $300.

Back in the Dallas suburb of Carrollton, they split the money and pawned some of the jewelry.

A woman arriving at the Rodriguez's home found the bodies.

Police later recovered a ring from a friend of Prieto who told authorities Prieto said he and the Hernandez brothers were responsible for the killings.

"He had a number of voluntary statements that were admitted into evidence in which he admitted to the crime," Michael Bernard, Prieto's lead trial lawyer, recalled last week. "He was in physical possession of some of the property afterward."

A Bexar County jury convicted Prieto of capital murder and deliberated 13 hours before deciding he should die.

Bernard said prosecutors offered Prieto a plea deal that included a sentence less than life in prison if he would testify against one of his companions.

"We weren't able to persuade him to do it," Bernard said.

Jesse Hernandez, now 38, was the fiance of Prieto's sister and father of her child. The slayings occurred a day before his 17th birthday, making him too young for the death penalty. He's serving a life sentence for capital murder. Charges against his brother, Guadalupe, were dropped because of insufficient evidence.

Prieto previously was jailed for more than a year and given probation for vehicle burglaries. He also was indicted in January 1994 on federal charges of engaging in organized criminal activity for the theft of 163 laptops worth $676,000 from a Dallas warehouse where he'd worked.

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