Zoe Campos' accused killer pleads guilty, punishment phase begins

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

A 29-year-old man pleaded guilty Monday to the 2013 slaying of an 18-year-old woman whose remains were found five years later buried in the backyard of a home in South Lubbock.

However, Carlos Rodriquez's punishment, which ranges from five years to life in prison, will be determined by a jury.

Rodriquez entered his guilty plea after jurors were selected in the 140th District Court to hear his murder trial for the Nov. 17, 2013 death of Zoe Campos.

His plea comes after District Judge Douglas Freitag denied his motion to throw out his confession to police detectives.

Campos was reported missing by her family on Nov. 19, 2013 two days after she didn't show up to fetch her mother from work.

For five years, Lubbock police detectives pursued Campos's disappearance as a missing persons case, though Rodriquez was considered a person of interest.

Rodriquez was being held at the Lubbock County Detention Center in 2018 on an unrelated case when another inmate approached detectives saying Rodriquez told him he killed Campos and buried her body.

In Nov. 8, 2018, detectives confronted Rodriquez with the information and he ended the interview by requesting an attorney.

Zoe Campos
Zoe Campos

However, about a week later, Rodriquez summoned detectives to the jail and admitted to killing Campos and led where he buried her body in the backyard of a home in the 1900 block of 70th street where he used to live.

Eight months later, Rodriquez reportedly wrote a letter to local news outlets admitting to killing Campos but mitigating his actions, saying he was under the influence of synthetic marijuana.

Rodriquez wrote in detail the moment the drugs took over his senses, making him believe Campos had turned into a demon.

Melinda Campos hugs her daughter Savannah and grandson, Isaiah, on Thursday at the Courtyards at Monterey apartment complex during a vigil for her other daughter, Zoe, who was last seen Nov. 17.
Melinda Campos hugs her daughter Savannah and grandson, Isaiah, on Thursday at the Courtyards at Monterey apartment complex during a vigil for her other daughter, Zoe, who was last seen Nov. 17.

In the letter, Rodriquez wrote that he carried the guilt and shame of Campos' killing for years. He apologized to Campos’ family and the community.

Though he admitted to killing Campos, he wrote that he was not a murderer and described his actions that night as reckless, which is a culpable mental state in manslaughter charges. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony that carries a punishment of two to 20 years in prison.

“I’m not asking for a dismissal,” he wrote. “I just want a fair judgement and not to be labeled as a murderer, but as a 20-year-old kid who made a mistake because of K-2 playing a major factor.”

However, voluntary intoxication is not a defense to a crime, though it may be used to mitigate punishment after a defendant is found guilty.

Before entering his plea, attorneys worked to pare down a pool of 69 potential jurors to a 12-member jury panel with two alternates.

The trial resumes Tuesday with attorneys making opening statements.

This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Zoe Campos' accused killer pleads guilty, punishment phase begins