Niko Niko's worker killed: Woman led investigators to other 2 suspects, investigators say

Emily Rodriguez-Avila was identified as the victim whose body was found wearing a Niko Niko's work uniform on a Liberty Co. road.

Friday, September 23, 2022
Updates given in case of Niko Niko's employee murder
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Why was a 16-year-old girl shot and left for dead on the side of a road after she was last seen being picked up from her last work shift? Investigators shared updates Friday afternoon.

LIBERTY COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- A 16-year-old, who was working one of her two jobs in west Houston before her lifeless body was dumped in Liberty County, was shot twice, including once in the head, law enforcement officials told reporters.

A news conference Friday marked the first organized briefing since three people were arrested after Emily Rodriguez-Avila's body was discovered, still in a Niko Niko's restaurant uniform, on a rural road in Liberty County on Sept. 4.

The arrests were announced on Tuesday, more than two weeks after the discovery. Kevin Rivera-Ortiz, 19; Joel Garcia-Martinez, 20; and Katherine Alvarez-Flores, 20, have been charged with murder in connection to Rodriguez-Avila's death.

While investigators were front and center to a collection of media members, they offered just a little of information in Emily's murder, which they said was committed in Liberty County.

The suspects confessed to committing the crime, but a motive was still not confirmed, investigators said. A lead in the case directed investigators to Alvarez-Flores, the first of the three arrested, who admitted to her role in the killing and led them to the other two suspects.

As to why the crimes happened in Liberty County, Capt. Billy Knox of the sheriff's office believed Rivera-Ortiz's family connections in the area suggested familiarity.

Officials identified Rivera-Ortiz as Emily's ex-boyfriend. The other two suspects are his friends, according to authorities.

The timeline

Rodriguez-Avila was murdered after being picked up from her shift at Niko Niko's restaurant on I-10 and the Beltway on the night of Sept. 3.

Rodriguez-Avila's body was reportedly found in the early morning of Sept. 4. She had been shot and left for dead.

Alvarez-Flores, who is being held on a $1.5 million bond, was the first of the three to be arrested on Sept. 8 on a charge of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence. Court records show she altered or destroyed a cell phone with evidence on it.

The other two were given a $1 million bond.

Deputies said they didn't want to speculate about a motive but have suggested it could be gang related.

SEE RELATED STORY: Some gang activity believed to be involved in death of teen whose body was found in Liberty County

"The gang agencies, there were some circumstances in the investigation that pointed to a possible link with gangs. That is still being investigated," Capt. Ken Defoor with the Liberty County Sheriff's Office said.

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