On September 13, 2005, Summer Baldwin, 29, was found in a suitcase in a landfill in Lubbock, Texas. After an extensive investigation, authorities zeroed in on US Marine Corps Reservist Rosendo Rodriguez. In the course of the investigation, Rodriguez also admitted to murdering Joanna Rogers, 16, on May 4, 2004 in Lubbock Texas. Rodriguez was found guilty of two capital murders: Summer Baldwin and her unborn baby. Rosendo Rodriguez was sentenced to death in the State of Texas. Rodriguez appealed his death penalty conviction but a federal court denied the request in May 2017. Rosendo Rodriguez was executed on March 27, 2018. Rodriguez was never prosecuted for the murder of Joanna Rogers.
On September 13, 2005, the Lubbock Texas landfill discovered the dead body of a female in a suitcase. The horrified foreman called the police and they rushed to the scene. The police believed that any human being that can do this to another human being is the lowest form of life. Police were angered by the injuries and pain Summer must have suffered with. She most likely died 48 hours prior to the discovery of her body. Police noted the landfill is not a sanitary place and it makes it difficult to collect forensic evidence. Investigators had to turn to her body to find clues. The medical examiner found a tattoo ‘Summer’ on her wrist and they entered her fingerprints in the system in the hopes they could determine who she was. They learned the deceased individual was Summer Baldwin. The police now had the difficult task of informing her mother 200 miles away in Roswell, New Mexico.
Summer grew up in New Mexico. She studied cosmetology and eventually ended up in Lubbock, Texas near her Aunt Terri to make a life for herself. Aunt Terri shared that Summer was only in Lubbock for 3 or 4 days and that was the last time she saw her. Upon the examination of Summer’s body, it was noted there were very obvious injuries to her body and she fought back against her attacker. She was severely beaten before she died and was thrown out like garbage. It broke her family’s heart to learn that she suffered so much before dying. Anyone could have done it and police needed leads. They began with the garbage collection employees to determine which dumpster she had been found in. The police looked at CCTV but the footage was useless. The medical examiner also determined that Summer was about five weeks pregnant. In Texas, this was a double homicide.
To investigators, an unborn child meant there was a father out there and a potential suspect. The police started reaching out to friends and family to learn more about Summer’s life and the one name that kept surfacing was Margie Estrada. Police would learn the two were inseparable friends. After informing a shocked Margie that Summer was dead, she was quick to offer up a suspect, Laquincy Freeman. Summer and Laquincy were boyfriend/girlfriend and known for stints of verbal altercations. He was definitely someone police needed to question if they could track him down. Finally they obtained an address for him so they picked Laquincy up for questioning. At this point, he was considered the prime suspect. He seemed strangely calm about Summer’s death but he admitted they dated, broke up, and he moved on. He wasn’t anywhere near his ex at the time of her murder. Police ask him to take a lie detector test and he passed with no signs of deception. The police let him go.
After some time passed, Summer’s best friend Margie went back to the police station because she felt she left out an important detail. She said she spotted Summer at a 7-11 convenience store and she was with a man she had never seen before. But she was able to describe him as a light skinned Hispanic who was clean cut. Margie said Summer drove off with him and provided a scant description of the vehicle: a red pick-up. Police chased this lead and headed to the 7-11 convenience store to look at the CCTV video footage. They hoped it would help them determine who was with Summer that night and maybe even what he was driving. The detectives catch a break and spot the red pick-up truck at about 11:30 p.m.; they are able to determine it’s most likely a Dodge Ram but couldn’t see Summer or ID the driver.
Detectives next turned to the suitcase to see if they could find any evidence. They observed the suitcase appeared to be new as if it was recently purchased. They found a UPC code on the inside and hoped it was traceable. They learned Wal-Mart was the only store that carried that suitcase and there were only two Wal-Marts in Lubbock. They headed to the stores and learned that specific suitcase was sold a couple of times, one in the afternoon and one at 3 a.m., a couple hours after Summer was spotted at the 7-11. Detectives combed through the CCTV video footage at Wal-Mart and saw the suitcase being purchased in the afternoon but couldn’t see the person. But they were able to track down the purchaser via a Wal-Mart loyalty card. This person came back clean so they moved on to the suitcase purchased at 3:20 a.m.
When they were viewing the CCTV video footage, all the police could see was a Hispanic male with a military haircut purchasing a suitcase. But when they looked closer, this same person made a second purchase; they would learn via other video footage in the store that the second purchase was a box of latex gloves. This was consistent with someone who didn’t want to get caught. In hindsight, this was a chilling combination. Now they needed to tie this individual to a red truck so they used outside CCTV video footage to track his movements in the parking lot. They observed this man calmly walk out, dragging the suitcase in hand, and he headed towards a dark colored pick-up truck. They couldn’t make out the vehicle on his way out but they were able to determine the make of the pick-up truck on his way into the Wal-Mart parking lot. But the footage was too blurry to give them a license plate number. Police were certain they had their man.
The Lubbock police zeroed in on their new suspect. They had him on camera and observed he used a debit or credit card to make the suitcase purchase. The police had to get a search warrant for the bank so they could determine who owned that card. The card belonged to Rosendo Rodriguez, a 25 year old whose permanent residence was 400 miles away in San Antonio, Texas. The debit card also reveals Rodriguez made another purchase in Lubbock on the day of Summer’s murder. It was a purchase at the same 7-11 Summer had been spotted at prior to her murder. The video footage police collected was crucial because it proved that Rodriguez was in the general vicinity on the day of the murder. After getting a name, police learned Rodriguez was a Reservist with the US Marine Corps and his reserve unit was based in Lubbock, Texas. Police contacted the Marines and learn that Rodriguez did not stay on base because he normally stays at a Holiday Inn.
The Holiday Inn Rodriguez usually stayed at just happened to be across the street from the same 7-11 where he made a purchase the day Summer Baldwin was last seen alive. Investigators raced to the hotel but Rodriguez had already checked out but they were able to search his hotel room. The police called in the forensic’s team for assistance and they found a patch of dry blood, a Wal-Mart bag, and some latex gloves. Now, detectives were ready to arrest Rosendo Rodriguez. And it wasn’t hard because he was at his mother’s house. Once questioned, he talked and told a very self serving story. He admitted to taking Summer back to his room and having consensual sex with her. But then he claims they got into an argument and she pulled a knife out on him. In self-defense, he put her in a choke hold and she still wouldn’t drop the knife. Eventually she stopped fighting and dropped to the floor.
Rosendo’s statement to the police did not match the medical examiner’s findings whatsoever. The police deduced Rodriguez was just a liar. Rodriguez even had an excuse for the blood at the scene; he claimed Summer had a nose bleed. Everything Rodriguez said was inconsistent with the forensic evidence. In March 2008, Rosendo Rodriguez went on trial in Texas for two capital murders: Summer and her unborn child. Shockingly, Rodriguez also admitted to killing Joanna Rogers. She was someone that had been missing since 2004 and it appeared that he murdered Joanna and Summer in the same way. Rodriguez had an excuse for Joanna’s murder too. He claimed she started raising her voice so he put his hands around her throat and choked her. On April 1st, 2008, Rosendo Rodriguez was found guilty of two capital murders in Texas and sentenced to death. Summer’s mom is devastated by the loss and said she was patiently awaiting the execution date. Rosendo Rodriguez III was executed by the State of Texas on March 27, 2018.
When a young woman is found dead in a Texas landfill, detectives race to discover the killer behind the brutal crime. With no leads, police turn to their only witnesses: video cameras that captured the murderer’s chilling attempt to cover his tracks. -Last Look of Summer, See No Evil (S3,E6)
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