Two counts of capital murder dismissed against Pharr man

Most serious conviction upheld

The 13th Court of Appeals dismissed two capital murder convictions against a 28-year-old Pharr man, but he will still remain in prison for the rest of his life for the brutal murder of two men found in a burning car more than four years ago.

A Hidalgo County jury convicted Hector Javier Rodriguez Alvarado of two counts of capital murder and a count of capital murder of multiple persons in June 2018 in what the state called the “horrific, brutal and excessively violent destruction of two human beings.”

Last week, the high court vacated his capital murder convictions based on double jeopardy while upholding his most serious conviction, capital murder of multiple persons to which he was sentenced to life without parole.

Alvarado, along with his co-defendants, Edinburg residents Edwin Salinas, 26, and Carlos Palacios, 33, have all been convicted for shooting Jose Luis Salinas Torres and Lazaro Alejandro Martinez Esparza in the back and putting their bodies in the trunk of a car that was found burning along a canal in Delta Lake in May 2015.

“In an affidavit, Alvarado admitted that he and Esparza were involved in transporting and selling drugs between Mexico and the United States,” the ruling reads.

The investigation into Alvarado, which stemmed from a tip, found that both Salinas and Palacios were present at the time of the murder.

“Salinas admitted to killing the two men and admitted to burning their bodies in the car using an accelerant; Salinas also implicated Palacios and Alvarado as co-participants in the murder,” the ruling states.

Authorities arrested Alvarado in September, 2015, months after Esparza and Torres were found in the trunk of the burning car.

“In his statement, Alvarado admitted that he knew Torres was a drug-dealer who frequently carried a gun,” according to the ruling. “Nevertheless, Alvarado proceeded to arrange a drug deal between Salinas, Esparza and Torres.”

However, when Salinas showed up, he was accompanied by Palacios.

“Alvarado admitted that he was aware that Palacios was a ‘psycho’ gang member known to use cocaine,” the ruling states. “However, Alvarado testified that Palacios and Salinas shot … Torres and Esparza and then placed them in the trunk of a car.”

The ruling goes on to detail how Alvarado and Salinas laughed as they held items taken from the victims and how they took a set of teeth from one of the victims.

While Alvarado is serving life without parole, both of the shooters reached plea deals with the State.

Salinas is serving 45 years in prison and will be eligible for parole in 2038 while Palacios was sentenced to 23 years in prison and will be eligible for parole in 2027.

Both Palacios and Salinas entered guilty pleas to two counts of murder and the state dismissed the charge of capital murder of multiple persons.