| Crime |

Landscaper Charged With Murdering Man Over Weed Whacker

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Vincente Rodriguez thought he had found a free weed whacker abandoned on the side of the road in northern Liberty County a couple of weeks ago — though it couldn't have been more expensive.

Early Sunday morning, Rodriguez was fatally shot over the weed whacker when its owner came hunting for it, according to the Liberty County Sheriff's Office. Not long after midnight, police said, a man came to Rodriguez's door and, strangely, began telling Rodriguez's wife he would like to buy their lawnmower — which was not for sale.

Just then, Rodriguez's wife peeked over the man's shoulder and saw their vehicle was in flames, she told investigators Sunday. Rodriguez came rushing out to extinguish it — which is when another man fatally shot him.

The man prosecutors charged in the killing, Melvin Adalberto Morales-Rivas, was a landscaper who lived in the same Bella Vista subdivision as Rodriguez and his wife.

Morales-Rivas turned himself in to police Monday after his landscaping partner,  Erwin Antonio Donis-Morales, the man who had knocked on Rodriguez's door, told police about the incident and handed over his pistol, which he says Morales-Rivas used to shoot Rodriguez.

According to Captain Ken DeFoor, with the sheriff's office, although police have yet to confirm the details leading up to the crime, they believe that when Rodriguez found the weed whacker on the side of the road, somebody saw him and tipped off Morales-Rivas, who had lost the apparently extremely important yard tool.

Several days before the shooting, police believe, Morales-Rivas confronted Rodriguez and asked for it back. Since Morales-Rivas couldn't prove he owned the weed whacker, Rodriguez said no. So, instead of buying a new weed whacker, police believe, Morales-Rivas decided to kill Rodriguez.

His partner, Donis-Morales, told police he kept his 40-caliber semi-automatic pistol in his car and thinks Morales-Rivas snatched it when Donis-Morales went to knock on the Rodriguezes' door. Setting Rodriguez's car on fire and killing him was never part of the plan, Donis-Morales said.

They just wanted the weed whacker.

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