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A Texas jury has decided a self-proclaimed hitman should be executed for brutally killing his roommate and his roommate’s teen girlfriend.
After four hours of deliberation, Hector Acosta was sentenced to death for the 2017 murders of Erick Zelaya and 17-year-old Iris Chirinos, according to the Fort-Worth Star Telegram.
He shot the couple while they slept in their Arlington home before mutilating their bodies with a machete and a two-by-four. He used the machete to decapitate his roommate, leaving his head in a walking trail near their home, according to CBS Dallas Fort-Worth. The rest of the victims' remains were found in a shallow grave in Acosta and Zelaya's backyard.
Acosta said he killed the couple in retaliation because he believed Zelaya was involved in a previous drive-by shooting. He left a note in Spanish near his roommate’s head which loosely translates to, “The race, or group, must be respected and there’s only four left,” according to the Star Telegram.
Acosta’s defense tried unsuccessfully to spare his life as they pleaded with the jury to let him live.
“This is a horrible thing that happened,” defense attorney Bill Ray said. “I’m not asking for a gift to give Hector. He will never get out.”
Ray said his client suffered a brain injury which affected his behavior. He and fellow defense attorney Gary Smart also detailed how Acosta grew up surrounded by violence in Monterrey, Mexico. They added that just months before the grisly murders, Acosta's parents died and his wife took their children away from him to move out of state, according to the Star Telegram.
“We’re not here to tell you that there were any justifications for what Hector did,” Smart said. “He’s a human being. We can save a life here.”
However, the prosecution pushed for Acosta's death, arguing that he always wanted to hurt people. Tim Rodgers told jurors that Acosta has a “sickness to kill people" and had dreamed of becoming a violent gang member since the age of 7. He said that Acosta claimed to have kidnapped, tortured and killed people while working as a hitman for Cartel Del Noreste.
“Acosta is not a product of a bad environment,” he said, according to the CBS affiliate. “He is the bad element in his environment. That’s what he is and what he wants to be.”
Acosta also stands accused, along with alleged accomplice Felipe Eduardo Ortiz, of killing a man named Triston Algiene in Fort Worth in 2017. They pair allegedly bound and beat Algiene during a robbery and, after their victim gave then the wrong PIN for his bank account, they allegedly shot him. Then, Acosta allegedly cut his body in half before hiding it under a house and pouring cement over it.
The prosecution also noted that Acosta allegedly tried to start a drug trafficking-operation while awaiting his double murder trial in jail, according to the Star-Telegram.
"Have you ever knowingly in your life sat in the room with a more dangerous person?" lead prosecutor Kevin Rousseau told the jury during closing arguments, according to NBC Dallas Fort-Worth. "He is extraordinarily violent. He deals in terror. It's his job."
Acosta is expected to be turned over to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and held on death row until he is executed.
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