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An armed man wanted in connection with at least three murders in the Houston area was captured Tuesday morning after he was spotted potentially casing homes for another robbery attempt, authorities said.
The week-long crime spree of Jose Gilberto Rodriguez, 46, came to end after someone called in a tip that they spotted his car in their suburban neighborhood, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said at a news conference.
Deputies in Harris County were already canvassing the area and quickly located Gilberto Rodriguez in the car. He led them on a 14-minute pursuit before giving up without incident just before 7 a.m. CT (8 a.m. ET), Gonzalez said.
A pistol was found inside the car, and officials believe he may have been casing homes in the neighborhood.
"It's possible that he was looking to score his next victim," Gonzalez said. "We're very relieved and thankful to the citizens of Harris County for calling in and being diligent."
Gilberto Rodriguez's capture comes hours after authorities identified him as a possible serial killer and asked the public at a news conference Monday to be on the lookout for a gray Nissan Sentra.
The Sentra, which was taken from the scene of one of the crimes, was the same one recovered Tuesday morning during the arrest, authorities said.
"Our community can breath [sic] a sigh of relief this morning," Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo tweeted, while asking people to review their security cameras and come forward if they have more information in the crimes.
Acevedo on Monday described Gilberto Rodriguez as a "person of strong interest" in the killings as well as two other crimes. The first was a July 9 home invasion in Harris County involving an 87-year-old man who was tied up at gunpoint. His 86-year-old wife was in the shower at the time and unharmed, their stepdaughter told NBC News.
There was also a separate robbery and shooting of a bus driver on Monday morning in northeast Houston.
In addition, the three people murdered were victims of gunfire, Acevedo said.
The sheriff's office said in a statement that Pamela Johnson, 62, was found dead inside her home in a northwest section of the county on Friday night after relatives were unable to reach her.
A PT Cruiser stolen from Johnson's home was found on Saturday at a mall in Houston, the sheriff’s office said. After reviewing surveillance footage, investigators released images of a suspect identified Monday as Gilberto Rodriguez.
A second woman, Allie Barrow, 28, was found shot to death roughly a half-mile away, in the back of a mattress shop, NBC affiliate KPRC reported.
Barrow, an employee at Mattress Firm, was found by her manager.
A third person, Edward Magana, was found dead at a shopping center on Monday less than two miles away, the station reported. Magana also worked at a mattress store — Mattress One. The Sentra was stolen from that scene.
Gilberto Rodriguez's criminal history dates back to 1989, when he was 17, state records show. He was convicted of attempting to commit aggravated sexual assault, auto theft and burglary-related charges, and was given a 25-year prison sentence.
Separately, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for another theft in a neighboring county. While in prison, he was convicted and sentenced to 10 more years for having a deadly weapon.
The sentences were stacked, and Gilberto Rodriguez was required by state law to be released last September for the amount of time served, said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jeremy Desel.
He was freed on mandatory supervision, which required he wear an ankle monitor. He also had to register as a sex offender, Desel said.
Acevedo on Monday had confirmed that Gilberto Rodriguez was on parole when he cut his ankle monitor a few days ago.
The chief added that it wasn't clear if the murders were the work of a serial killer.
"A serial killer is three or more murders — separate homicides — usually without a motive," he told reporters. "This guy's motive appears to be robbery in a lot of cases."
But during the news conference, Gonzalez said the evidence appeared to point in the direction of a serial killer.
Responding to a tweet about a potential modus operandi, Gonzalez said the victims were mixed ages and genders, but connected to three areas in Houston or its suburbs — Cypress, Willowbrook and north Eastex.
Gonzalez told reporters Tuesday that the suspect was "floating around" the area, where his parents still reside. He declined to speak further about the gun that was found.
Charges remain pending. He is expected to be held on a parole violation before other charges are announced, Gonzalez said.
"At this point, we hope that he can be held accountable and the full extent of the law can be applied," the sheriff added.