HPD: Love triangle was at center of park murder


The horrific murder investigation has been cold for eight months. Authorities now say it was all over a man at the center a love triangle.

According to police, DNA evidence found next to the charred body led them straight to the suspect, though she denies any involvement in the murder.

Pilar Pineda Rodriguez, 55, is charged with capital murder. Police say she killed 42-year-old Norma Tapia last July over a man the two were dating.

Det. Jonathan French with the Houston Police Department tells us the killing was out of sheer jealousy, anger and hatred.

Houston police say Rodriguez had been dating a man named Pablo Barrera for eight years. Tapia dated him for two years.

Tapia's body was found on fire at George Bush Park on July 6. She was last seen at her job at the Shish Kabob Café II off the Katy Freeway near Fry. Police say co-workers saw Tapia get in a car at about 10pm.

Family members began searching for Tapia the following morning when she did not return home from work. Her vehicle was found in her employer's parking lot.

Two passersby found Tapia's body burning on the side of the road at 16000 Westheimer Parkway at around 1:10am.

Investigators now believe Rodriguez kidnapped Tapia as she was leaving work. According to court documents, Tapia was suffocated before she was set on fire.

Police say Rodriguez made one mistake that led to her arrest: she left behind what they believe is the murder weapon.

In the park near Tapia's body was a plastic cord. On it, they found Rodriguez's DNA, which they matched to a sample Rodriguez gave them during questioning.

"It was almost like clear plastic. As you pull that plastic it becomes tougher, something you could wrap a pallet with," French said.

We went to the home of the man who police say both women were dating.

"You need to talk to my lawyer," Barrera told us.

Barrera denied involvement in the murder, but wouldn't answer questions beyond that. He has not been arrested or charged with any crime.

Rodriguez was charged with capital murder on Friday. She will appear in court on Wednesday once the court appoints a Spanish-speaking attorney certified to handle capital murder cases. No bond has been set.

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