A man accused of killing and then dismembering the body of a Texas mother with an electric chainsaw was ordered to be held on $1 million bond Tuesday after being on the run for five years.
Erik Arceneaux, 51, was first charged with murder in 2019 in the disappearance of 29-year-old Maria Jimenez-Rodriguez, who was last seen the morning of June 21, 2018, when she dropped off her daughter at her babysitter’s northeast Houston home on the way to work, investigators said.
Jimenez-Rodriguez, a paralegal at the Milledge Law Firm, never arrived at the office that day. A colleague later told police that she had received three texts on June 21 from Jimenez-Rodriguez’s phone apologizing for her absence; the last text from her phone, sent around 6:19 p.m., said she was being followed by three men, according to a Houston Police Department homicide detective’s probable cause affidavit obtained by HuffPost. Her body has never been found.
A missing person poster seeking information about Maria Jimenez-Rodriguez.
“There was a text message reported to be from her, but it didn’t seem like her,” Samuel Milledge, her boss and the family’s spokesperson, told Houston’s KPRC-TV at the time. Milledge did not respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.
Jimenez-Rodriguez’s older sister became alarmed when the babysitter contacted her to say that Jimenez-Rodriguez never returned to pick up her daughter and hadn’t responded to phone calls or texts, according to authorities and her family. Her sister used OnStar to track her truck, which was abandoned near a rail yard in northeast Houston, the affidavit said, just blocks from the babysitter’s home. Jimenez-Rodriguez’s purse and cellphone were gone, and her sister reported her missing to the police later that evening.
When questioned after her disappearance, Arceneaux told detectives Jimenez-Rodriguez was his girlfriend and he’d last seen her the night of June 20 and that he expected her to pick him up at 9 a.m. the next day for a job interview, according to the police affidavit, but she never showed up.
Jimenez-Rodriguez’s sister denied that the two were a couple, telling Houston’s Fox 26 that he was an athletic trainer at a gym who had been stalking her.
Detectives said Arceneaux’s daughter received 11 calls from her father on June 21, saying he was scared and afraid that “something bad” had happened to Jimenez-Rodriguez.
Investigators said that cellular data and security footage placed Arceneaux at the scene where Jimenez-Rodriguez’s car was later found. In the surveillance video, investigators said, her car is seen circling the area and a man, identified later by his daughter as Arceneaux, is seen walking away from the area shortly afterward.
Both Jimenez-Rodriguez’s and Arceneaux’s phones had traveled together throughout the day, investigators said, ending up at a Home Depot store at approximately 6:30 p.m. Surveillance video from the store allegedly showed Arceneaux arriving alone and then at the cash register purchasing an electric chainsaw and a box of 42-gallon industrial trash bags. Both phones then allegedly were tracked together en route to Arceneaux’s home.
Luminol testing later performed at Arceneaux’s home showed evidence of blood on his bedroom’s walls and ceiling that someone had attempted to clean up, authorities said.
Authorities issued an arrest warrant in August 2019 for Arceneaux on suspicion of murder in connection with Jimenez-Rodriguez’s disappearance and using a chainsaw to dismember and dispose of her body. Authorities could not locate him, however, until he was arrested by U.S. marshals last week outside a business in southeast Houston.
Arceneaux had previously pleaded guilty in 2010 to aggravated assault and admitted he had driven around the city with a gun pointed at the head of his then-girlfriend while threatening to kill her, court records show. Over the years he was missing, the U.S. Marshals Service described him as a “violent and dangerous man.”
The Harris County district attorney and Arceneaux’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment from HuffPost.
Before Tuesday’s hearing, Arceneaux’s bail was initially set at $250,000 before being revoked. He is currently being held in the Harris County Jail.