Death Watch: The Suitcase Killer

State’s fourth execution set for March 27


Late on Monday afternoon, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied death row inmate Rosendo Rodriguez III's most recent appeal, and time is running out. Rodriguez was convicted of raping, beating, and killing Summer Baldwin at a Lubbock hotel in 2005, then trashing her body in a suitcase at the city dump. He confessed to the killing – as well as the murder of a 16-year-old girl whose body was also discovered in a suitcase one year before.

Following the CCA's ruling, Rodriguez's attorney Seth Kretzer filed a flurry of new appeals in state and federal courts, arguing that his client did not receive a fair trial. The argument hinges on an unrelated 2015 lawsuit filed against Sridhar Natarajan, the Lubbock medical examiner who reported to have performed Baldwin's autopsy – which accuses the M.E. of routinely "delegating" decisions to his senior forensic nurse who often decided "which bodies to autopsy" and which required only "visual inspection." As Rodriguez's March 27 death date nears, his lawyer claims the prosecution team used a "discredited forensic scientist to deprive" Rodriguez of a fair trial, which ultimately violated his constitutional right to due process. The appeal goes on to say the state also violated Brady obligations by failing to disclose the aforementioned lawsuit and Natarajan's pricey out-of-court settlement. Rodriguez would be the fourth Texan executed this year; only Thomas Whitaker has been spared to date.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More by Sarah Marloff
Four Women File New Sexual Assault Suit in State Court
Four Women File New Sexual Assault Suit in State Court
Survivors come forward to accuse APD and the D.A.'s Office

Sept. 18, 2020

Plaintiffs Appeal Dismissal of Sexual Assault Survivors’ Lawsuit
Plaintiffs Appeal Dismissal of Sexual Assault Survivors’ Lawsuit
Filing: Court “incorrectly abdicated” duty to uphold women’s rights

Aug. 11, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Rosendo Rodriguez III

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle