Rodrigo Hernandez, 38, was executed by lethal injection on 26 January 2012 in Huntsville, Texas for the rape and murder of a 38-year-old woman.
In the early morning of February 18, 1994, Susan Verstegen, a snack foods vendor, was delivering products to an H-E-B supermarket in San Antonio. While she was working at a stocking shed behind the store, she was attacked, sexually assaulted, and strangled. The unknown assailant then transported her body to a nearby church and left it in a 55-gallon garbage barrel.
The crime remained unsolved until 2002. That February, in Michigan, Rodrigo Hernandez was being released from prison after having served 3½ years for beating a man nearly to death. As a condition of his parole, Hernandez had to provide a DNA sample. That sample was then entered into a national data base. It was subsequently matched to the DNA evidence from the 1994 San Antonio case.
Hernandez was arrested in Michigan in September 2002. Another DNA sample was taken from him. It also matched the DNA evidence from the San Antonio crime scene. Hernandez then gave a written statement, wherein he confessed to attacking, raping, and murdering Verstegen and disposing of her body.
"I had been smoking weed, drinking beer and mixed drinks, and did not realize what I was doing," he stated. "I want to say I am sorry and wish it was me instead of her."
Hernandez had previous convictions in Michigan for indecent exposure, engaging in an illegal gambling business, malicious destruction of property, felony assault, burglary of a home, and burglary of a business.
A jury convicted Hernandez of capital murder in March 2004 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in February 2006. All of his subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.
In March 2010, Hernandez was identified, again by DNA, as the perpetrator in another cold case murder. Muriel Stoepker, a 77-year-old "bag lady" in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was beaten, raped, and shot in September 1991. Hernandez had been released from jail on a burglary charge one month earlier.
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