HOUSTON — A suspect in two mattress store murders, the killing of a suburban Houston woman and other unsolved crimes was arrested Tuesday after a car chase.
The pursuit ended just before 7 a.m. CT near Houston’s Hastings Green neighborhood with Jose Rodriguez, 46, in the same dark gray Nissan Sentra that authorities had been searching for.
As of midday, Rodriguez had not been charged in connection with the crimes but was taken into custody without incident after about a 15-minute chase, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.
“It’s possible that he was looking to score his next victim, so we’re very relieved, very thankful to the citizens of Harris County for calling in, for being diligent and reporting this to us so that we could take action,” Gonzalez said during a news conference.
A 911 caller spotted the Sentra, the Harris County sheriff’s office was notified and a deputy attempted to stop the car. After Rodriguez was stopped a handgun was found in the car, which police say was stolen from one of his victims.
► July 15: DNA evidence credited for arrest in 30-year-old cold case
► June 6: Phoenix-area murders: Was this the work of a serial killer?
► May 21: Suspected serial killer wants an apology from police in Michigan
Authorities on Monday identified Rodriguez as a suspect in the violent crime spree. Gonzalez had tweeted that he’s “considered a serial killer, armed and dangerous.”
“He’s been on a rampage in a series of murders,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said. “Let’s get this man off the street as soon as possible.”
Rodriguez is 5 feet 9 inches tall, about 150 pounds, bald with tattoos on his neck and other parts of his body. He also has a tattoo on the top of his head.
The first person killed in the crime spree was a widow in suburban Cypress, Texas, who liked to read the Bible and bake cookies for neighbors.
Harris County sheriff’s deputies found Pamela Johnson, 62, inside her home Friday. Her brother had asked officials to check on her because she wasn’t answering his calls.
► May 10: Suspected Michigan serial killer Arthur Ream touted body count
► April 26: Family of accused California serial killer voices sympathy for victims
The widow’s television, computer and jewelry were missing from her home, detectives said. On Saturday, Johnson’s missing PT Cruiser was found about a dozen miles away in the parking lot of Willowbrook Mall.
Mall surveillance video showed a man believed to be Rodriguez walking through the mall and exiting the opposite side. Other vehicles used in the crime spree were also dumped at the mall, police said.
On Saturday night, a Mattress Firm store manager found employee Allie Barrow, 28, the store not far from Willowbrook Mall.
“I’ve heard about robberies around here and stuff like that but nothing about someone being found dead. It’s pretty scary.” said Sarai Roman, who works at a business nearby.
A few hours after Barrow’s name was released Monday, police were called to another mattress store about 3 miles away.
This time, the victim was a man, found inside a Mattress One store; his name has not been released. The Nissan Sentra was stolen from that crime scene.
Mattress Firm closed its Houston-area stores Tuesday to assess safety measures.
“Our hearts are heavy after hearing of another senseless act of violence at a peer mattress company in Houston on the heels of this weekend’s tragic event,” Steve Stagner, chief executive of Mattress Firm, said in a statement. “As the safety of our employees is paramount, we are working diligently to implement additional security measures for further protection of our employees.”
Police also want to question Rodriguez about the robbery and shooting of a METROLift driver early Monday. The driver of the handicapped-accessible bus service survived and was rushed to an area hospital.
► April 16: Eighth victim of suspected Toronto serial killer identified
► Jan. 23: Jailed German serial killer charged with 97 new counts of murder
A fifth crime, a home invasion robbery July 9 in northern Harris County also could be linked to Rodriguez, authorities said.
Authorities have “strong indications in each crime” that Rodriguez was involved, Gonzalez said but declined to elaborate. They have not released further details of the crimes, such as the motive behind each act and whether the victims were randomly chosen.
Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Janel Forte on Twitter: @JanelKHOU