Teen pleads not guilty to capital murder

EDINBURG — A 17-year-old former Donna High School freshman entered not guilty pleas to accusations he broke into a restaurant and stabbed a 69-year-old man to death in January.

Pedro Gaspar Rocha, who was 16 at the time of the killing, appeared in court Wednesday morning, to be arraigned on capital murder charges that allege he broke into Pollos y Costillas Asadas Estilo Veracruz in rural Donna at 3:45 a.m. on Jan. 13 and stabbed Arturo Hermes Hernandez to death and critically injured 21-year-old Franklin Lopez during the course of the robbery.

He’s charged with capital murder and attempted capital murder.

The incident occurred just one week before Rocha turned 17.

After the teen’s arrest, Hidalgo County Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra said Rocha was accused of the first murder his office investigated this year. The case was also the first in his five years as sheriff where a juvenile faced capital murder charges.

According to Guerra, Rocha confessed to breaking into the eatery through a window to rob the restaurant. Authorities accuse him of stealing an undisclosed amount of money and a large knife he found in the restaurant that he’s accused of using in the attack.

Lopez, the 21-year-old who survived the stabbing, told deputies Rocha was a frequent patron who lived in the neighborhood.

Deputies arrested him on Guadalupe Drive in Donna, which is just down the street from the crime scene.