Trial begins for man accused in beating death of elderly Slaton man

·2 min read
The Lubbock County Courthouse.
The Lubbock County Courthouse.

The trial began Monday on a non-death penalty capital murder trial for a 56-year old man accused of the 2019 slaying of a 79-year-old Slaton man whose body was found northwest of Abernathy.

David Wayne Hampton, who has been held at the Lubbock County Detention Center since Aug. 15, 2019, is charged with capital murder in the Aug. 3, 2019 slaying of Celestino Rodriguez.

Attorneys worked Monday to pare down a pool of 70 people to a 12-person jury who will hear the case against Hampton.

Capital murder typically carries a punishment of the death penalty or life in prison without parole. However, prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty in the case, so Hampton faces an automatic life sentence without parole if he is convicted.

Hampton is one of a handful of people charged in connection with the homicide case that initially began as a missing persons case when Rodriguez's family reported him missing .

Heather Casias and Brett Garza are both charged with murder. Meanwhile, Freddie Salinas 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.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez’s family reported him missing to Slaton police, who asked the Lubbock Metropolitan Special Crimes Unit to help investigate. While investigating Rodriguez's disappearance, detectives found that his debit card was being used in multiple stores in Lubbock.

Security camera footage from the stores showed two men, later identified as Hampton and Garza, at the store together.

According to the arrest warrant, Garza reportedly admitted to being a part of the plan to beat and rob Rodriguez. He reportedly told investigators that Casias knew the PIN number to Rodriguez's card and gave it to him and Hampton.

According to the warrant, Garza led investigators to a secluded location in Abernathy where he, Salinas and and another man left Rodriguez's body.

The trial is continuing this week.

This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Capital murder trial begins for suspect in elderly man's beating death