Rodolfo “Rudy” Arellano, 36, pleaded guilty to capital murder on Wednesday, Jan. 30, at a brief court hearing before State District Judge Robb Catalano in a Ft. Worth courtroom, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Prosecutors seeking the death penalty had initially been preparing to go to trial in the spring, but defense attorneys announced their client was willing to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison without the chance of parole.
Prosecutor Allenna Bangs told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that family members of the slain Elizabeth Arellano were comforted by the guilty plea.
“The idea that he is going to admit it and he is going to say that it is him and that he is guilty brought them such a level of peace,” Bangs said to the newspaper.
Some of the family members are expected to provide statements in court next week, testifying about the impact of the kidnapping and murder of Elizabeth Arellano, with whom the defendant had four children.
Richard Henderson, Arellano’s defense attorney, called the plea deal a “correct resolution” to the case, according to the Star-Telegram.
“It was just a difficult case,” Henderson said. “A mother has been lost and a father has been lost to the children.”
“Elizabeth Arellano was a mom and a daughter and a sister and friend and the people who love her know that they can’t have her back,” Bangs said, according to the Star-Telegram. “So knowing that he is in prison for the remainder of his natural life and that is not going to change and knowing the comfort that brought them is what puts us where we are today.”
Officials initially thought 28-year-old Elizabeth Arellano’s death may have been a suicide.
A rope had been tied around her neck, attached at the other end to a heavy chunk of concrete.
Swift-water rescuers who pulled the medical assistant’s body from Lake Worth on the morning of April 16, 2016, noted that she was still wearing her maroon-colored medical scrubs. She vanished the night before after going out with work colleagues.
The last person to hear from Elizabeth Arellano was a co-worker, whom she called to say she’d made it safely to her parents’ home in north Fort Worth after a late night out.
Her mother called the police on the following the day after finding her daughter’s car abandoned nearby with the keys still in the ignition and her purse and cellphone inside.
Detectives later said they believed Rodolfo Arellano had lain in wait outside her parents’ home and kidnapped her.
Witnesses told police they had seen someone fall off the Interstate 820 bridge.
“One witness described hearing what sounded like screams on the way down,” Fort Worth homicide Detective J. Cedillo wrote in an arrest warrant affidavit, according to the Star-Telegram.
Investigators believe Elizabeth Arellano was still alive when she hit the water. Tarrant County medical officers ruled her death a homicide by drowning.
Diana Ramos, a neighbor, told CBS 11 at the time of her death: “How can somebody do something like that? I don’t understand how people can be so evil and so mean, to another human being.”
Rodolfo Arellano Arrested
Police took the victim’s estranged husband into custody ten days after her body was found.
Investigators found remnants from the concrete block inside his vehicle and his yard, Newsweek reported. There was a piece of a wooden fence encased in the concrete block found attached to her neck and detectives reported discovering that Arellano had some time ago torn down a fence that had wood posts anchored in concrete.
Cellphone records and surveillance footage also showed the estranged husband was in the vicinity of his wife’s parents’ home during the time of the suspected abduction.
Relatives cited by the Dallas Morning News said the couple had been together 13 years but that Elizabeth Arellano planned to divorce her husband.