A 55-year-old man accused in the beating death of a 79-year-old Slaton man about three years ago is facing an upgraded charge.
David Wayne Hampton was initially indicted on September 2019 on a count of murder, which carries a punishment of five years to life in prison.
However, on Tuesday Lubbock County prosecutors presented grand jurors with a capital murder case against Hampton in connection with Celestino Rodriguez's Aug. 3, 2019 slaying. Hampton is accused of killing Rodriguez in the course of robbing the elderly man.
Grand jurors returned a true bill and Hampton He now faces a possible punishment of life in prison without parole or the death penalty.
He is set to stand trial on the case in June. He is represented by Lubbock attorney Phil Johnson, who declined to comment.
Hampton is one of six people charged in connection with the homicide case.
Heather Casias, 37, Brett Garza, 36 are both charged with murder. Freddie Salinas, 39, faces a count of tampering with a corpse, a second-degree felony that carries a punishment of two to 20 years in prison.
Toby Daughtry and Amanda Blagburn each face a count of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, a state jail felony that carries a punishment of six months to two years in a state jail facility.
Prosecutors believe Casias hatched a plan with Garza to rob Rodriguez, who Casias knew was about to get a monthly benefit check. Garza recruited Hampton to help with the robbery, according to an arrest warrant.
Investigators believe Casias lured Rodriguez to a location in Lubbock and watched as Garza and Hampton beat him until he was unresponsive, the warrant states.
Rodriguez died a short time later and Garza and Hampton moved his body to a cotton field West of Lubbock after taking his wallet and debit card.
The warrant states Hampton told Blagburn and Daughtry to hide Rodriguez’s white Chrysler 200 in a way that law enforcement would find it.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez’s family reported him missing to Slaton police, who asked the Lubbock Metropolitan Special Crimes Unit to help investigate.
Investigators with the unit discovered Rodriguez’s debit card was used at businesses in Lubbock four hours after he was last seen. Investigators tracked down the transactions and identified Garza, Hampton and another man as the men who were allegedly fraudulently using Rodriguez’s debit card, including using his PIN, the warrant states.
Milam County Sheriff’s deputies found Rodriguez’s vehicle in Temple. The vehicle was abandoned near a field surrounded by vegetation of 8-10 feet tall. Rodriguez’s cane and a shoe he was seen wearing were found in the vehicle.
Milam County deputies, responding to a call about a man walking along a roadway, encountered Daughtry, who said he wanted to talk to them about a stolen car involving Hampton.
Investigators spoke to Garza who reportedly said he recruited Salinas and another man to move Rodriguez’s body to a field near Abernathy when Casias called him and was concerned that Rodriguez’s body would be discovered.
Garza led police to the field near County Road 315 and County Road K, northwest of Abernathy, where they found a body that was later identified as Rodriguez, the warrant states.
Casias, Hampton and Garza remain held at the Lubbock County Detention Center.
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Capital murder charge filed in 2019 beating death of Celestino Rodriguez