HOUSTON (AP) – A Texas sheriff’s official says a series of killings over four days were “crimes of opportunity” by a suspect focused on easy targets. Harris County senior deputy Thomas Gilliland on Wednesday declined to address the motive behind the string of violent crimes blamed on 46-year-old Jose Gilberto Rodriguez. But Gilliland says the parolee’s actions were consistent with criminals searching for “soft targets” who focus on smaller stores with minimal customer traffic and only one or two employees. Authorities accuse Rodriguez of shooting 28-year-old Allie Barrow at a Houston mattress store on Saturday and 57-year-old Edward Magana at another mattress store on Monday. He’s also accused of killing a 62-year-old woman in her home. Rodriguez is being held without bond in the Harris County jail.
HOUSTON (AP) – A Houston hospital that in early June suspended its heart transplant program for two weeks amid scrutiny over patient deaths loses Medicare funding next month. The Houston Chronicle reports Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center officials are considering whether to appeal the order from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. A hospital statement Tuesday said the unwavering focus is to ensure patients receive the best possible care. A Houston Chronicle and ProPublica investigation focused on two patient deaths this year. Federal officials raised concerns about patient care and whether program improvements were adequate. The hospital on June 22 learned of federal plans to halt Medicare. St. Luke’s, which said it’s taking corrective steps, was ordered Monday to let patients know the Medicare suspension begins Aug. 17 even with an appeal.
DALLAS (AP) – A former executive with a Dallas County nonprofit housing agency created in 1965 to combat poverty must serve five years in federal prison for defrauding homeowners. Prosecutors say 46-year-old Francisco Javier Gonzalez of Duncanville must also pay nearly $612,000 in restitution. Gonzalez, who was sentenced Monday, pleaded guilty last year to mail fraud. Authorities say Gonzalez, as vice president of the Dallas County Community Action Committee, was supposed to help individuals get mortgages and prevent foreclosures. Prosecutors say Gonzalez instead required some victims to pay him lump sums for his help and to make their mortgage payments directly to him, instead of to a financial institution. Gonzalez spent the money on himself and for other personal expenses. Victims included homeowners, banks and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
HOUSTON (AP) – Houston residents called police about an attempted burglary after hearing noises from the roof of their home and spotting a man there carrying a machete. When officers arrived and the man refused to come down, members of a SWAT team summoned to the scene had to use a stun gun to remove him. The man, whose name hasn’t been immediately released, told Houston television station KTRK as he was being led away in handcuffs: “It’s crazy out here. Crazy world.” He also suggested he probably would be killed and “probably gonna see me on the news tomorrow.” It wasn’t his first run-in with police Tuesday. Authorities say earlier in the night he pulled a knife during a confrontation with a family member.
CORPUS CHRISTI (AP) – A South Texas woman showed up to a recent City Council meeting dressed as a cockroach. The Caller-Times reports that its Patricia Polastri’s latest attempt to bring attention to the influx of roaches and rodents near a major Corpus Christi road after new vegetation was planted. The Texas A&M University-Kingsville professor brought a bag of dead cockroaches to a City Council meeting last month to complain about the new vegetation planted along Ocean Drive. She says residents’ safety is at risk by cockroaches and other rodents attracted to the street’s palm trees and bushes. Council Member Ben Molina walked the median with Polastri last month. He says he hasn’t pushed the issue with the city further because many residents are in favor of the landscaping.
GRAND PRAIRIE (AP) — Police have arrested a woman who was sought on a warrant alleging she was driving a car that struck and killed a bicyclist in a Dallas-area hit-and-run. Grand Prairie police on Wednesday announced 38-year-old Kallie Wright of Fort Worth was being held on a charge of accident involving death. Investigators say Wright turned herself in Tuesday after police announced she was wanted in the weekend death of Calvin Middleton Jr. of Cedar Hill. Police say Middleton was hit Sunday morning. Investigators believe the driver stopped, got out, looked at the victim, then got back into the vehicle and drove off. Middleton died at the scene. Authorities didn’t immediately provide information on an attorney representing Wright, whose bond was $175,000.