An unidentified assailant gunned down Rodríguez, 40, as the veteran crime reporter sat in a company sedan in the driveway of his home. Rodríguez’s eight-year-old daughter, whom he was preparing to take to school, watched from the back seat.
Rodríguez had told CPJ that he had been receiving threats and that intimidation had become routine in the violent border city. “The risks here are high and rising, and journalists are easy targets,” Rodríguez told CPJ. “But I can’t live in my house like a prisoner. I refuse to live in fear.” Days before he was murdered, Rodríguez had written an article accusing a local prosecutor’s nephew of having links to drug traffickers.
In July 2009, the lead federal investigator working on the Rodríguez murder was shot to death. His replacement was murdered less than a month later.
On October 31, 2016, the state court of Chihuahua sentenced Juan Alfredo Soto Arias to 30 years in prison for the murder of Rodríguez. Prosecutors identified Soto Arias as the leader of a criminal group, according to news reports. An article in the newspaper El Sol de Zacatecas said that Soto Arias had been ordered to kill the Rodríguez by another gang member living because of articles that the journalist had written about the crime group.
In June 2010, the National Human Rights Commission in Mexico received a report that Soto Arias had been tortured in police custody, according to an article in the local outlet El Ágora.
“We feel that there has still not been full justice. The sentence is only for an accomplice in this killing…Many aspects of the investigation are still opaque,” Rocío Gallegos, the editor of El Diario de Ciudad Juárez told CPJ. “There is too much uncertainty, above all because, many years ago, the lawyer of the man now sentenced said that they had tortured him, which caused us a great deal of distress.”
Officials have pointed to Juarez Drug Cartel leader José Antonio Acosta Hernández, currently serving a life sentence in the United States for his involvement in drug trafficking and multiple homicides, as the mastermind of the murder, although he has not faced criminal proceedings in Mexico, according to Mexican newspaper El Diario.