By Vanesa Brashier, firstname.lastname@example.org
A Freeport, Texas, woman was arrested Friday, July 8, in connection to the April 14, 2005, murders of Luz and Antonio Rodriguez of Cleveland. Shelley Susan Lemoine Thompson, 41, was taken into custody and booked into the Liberty County Jail by Texas Ranger Brandon Bess, assigned to the Texas Rangers Cold Case Division, and Cleveland Police Detective John Shaver.
The murders of the elderly Cleveland couple rocked the community at the time, being the first time that a double murder had been committed in the city. Over the years, as leads dried up and no new information was available, the investigation grew stagnant. DNA evidence was collected from the Rodriguezes’ home at 103 Waco St. and put into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, referred to as CODIS.
The suspect DNA had no matches in the system until 2021 when CODIS identified Thompson’s DNA following her arrest and imprisonment on unrelated drug charges.
“There is evidence that reveals she (the suspect) was at the home on that date and time of the murders,” said Cleveland Police Chief Darrel Broussard. “There are still more interviews to be done.”
Authorities believe another person may have helped commit the murders, though only Thompson has been identified at this time. The motive for the murders is unclear.
Antonio Zamora Rodriguez, 80, was a World War II veteran who devoted the last years of his life to the care of his ailing and disabled wife, Luz, 77. The couple was found beaten and strangled inside their home. Antonio was found lying on the floor near a bathroom while Luz was found bloody and battered on her bed. Their daughter, Carolina Tejeda, was the one who found her parents and notified authorities.
At the time of their deaths, the Rodriguezes were well-known and well-regarded in the community. Prior to moving to Cleveland, they worked in the farming community of San Benito by harvesting and selling produce.
“In 1984 they sold their business in San Benito and moved to Cleveland, where they were active community members and were involved with the Cleveland VFW Post 1839. The couple operated a small Mexican food restaurant from their home that served shift workers who worked at a local plywood mill,” according to a statement from the Texas Department of Public Safety. “The Rodriguezes were known to cater to workers at odd hours of the day and night and were a beloved part of the local Hispanic community for the hospitality they extended to everyone they encountered.”
Together, they raised 10 children and three nephews. Their murders haunted the Rodriguez family, prompting numerous appeals and rewards for information leading to the arrest of the suspect or suspects responsible for the horrific crimes.
In the immediate hours of the investigation, Cleveland police used scent-tracking dogs in the hopes of finding a suspect. The dogs led authorities to a nearby apartment complex, but the trail ended there with no suspects identified.
While an arrest is not a guarantee that Thompson will ultimately be convicted for the murders, it is a starting point toward healing for the Rodriguez family, said the couple’s son, Martin Rodriguez.
After seven overseas deployments with the U.S. Army and his parents’ murders, Martin said it has been a long time since he has “seen the hand of God.”
“Today, after getting word from Texas Ranger Brandon Bess, that all changed. I have seen the hand of God at work today. Our family is extremely relieved that there is activity in our parents’ homicide. We are grateful for the efforts of the Texas Rangers, particularly Ranger Bess, Cleveland Police Department and the Liberty County District Attorney’s Office,” Martin said. “They have shown that they do care about what happened to our parents. They have restored our hope and faith in the justice system.”
Thompson is being held in the Liberty County Jail on a capital murder charge and bond has been set at $1 million.