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Man Sentenced to Life in Prison After Being on the Run for 19 Years Following His Wife’s Murder

(STAFFORD) - A 71-year-old man has been sentenced to life in prison after being on the run for more than 19 years following the shooting death of his wife in Stafford in 1999. Apolinar Tejeda was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison by a Fort Bend County jury on June 13.

Apolinar Tejeda

According to Chief Domestic Violence Prosecutor Sunni Mitchell, employees of the Aramark Corporation in Stafford found a fellow employee, Rosa Liberato, shot to death in her car on the morning of October 13, 1999. An Aramark manager told Stafford police that noticed a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot when he arrived at work at 5:30 a.m. and other witnesses reported hearing gunshots at approximately 5:45 a.m.


The investigation eventually identified Tejeda as a suspect. Witnesses stated that Tejeda borrowed a relative’s car in the early morning hours prior to the murder and later abandoned that same vehicle at a friend’s home. That vehicle was identified by the Aramark Manager as the suspicious vehicle he saw in the parking lot on the morning of the murder.


Tejeda fled Texas immediately after the murder and was believed to be, at various times, in California, Mexico and North Carolina. Despite all their efforts, detectives from Stafford PD were unable to locate the defendant. It was later learned that Tejeda used several aliases during this time. In 2018, the Stafford Police Department received a tip that Tejeda was in North Carolina. Based on this tip, federal agents and local authorities apprehended Apolinar Tejeda in August 2018 – nineteen years after he murdered Rosa Liberato.


Rosa Liberato’s son testified at trial that in the weeks prior to the murder, his father, the defendant, had threatened to harm Liberato. He was 14 years old at the time of the crime. The victim’s daughter also testified that two days before the murder, she overheard a similar conversation between Liberato and Tejeda. Other family members testified about the tumultuous relationship between the victim and the defendant.


After a week-long trial with multiple witnesses, the jury took less than an hour to find Apolinar Tejeda guilty of Murder and another 30 minutes to sentence him to life in prison. The jury also assessed the maximum $10,000 fine.


“The defendant avoided responsibility for this horrific crime for far too long,” said lead prosecutor Mitchell. “We are grateful to the jury for rendering a swift and just verdict holding Apolinar Tejeda accountable for his actions. After 24 years, justice was finally obtained for Rosa Liberato and her family.”


Tejeda was tried in the 268th District Court before Presiding Judge Steve Rogers. Murder is a first-degree felony punishable by 5 to 99 years, or life, in prison and a fine up to $10,000. The defendant must serve at least half of his sentence before being considered for parole, though he will likely die in prison. Assistant District Attorneys Sunni Mitchell and Veronica Alvarado tried the case.


“We have a continuing obligation to seek justice,” said District Attorney Brian Middleton. “The defendant evaded justice for far too long, but the long arm of the law caught up with him. Justice has now been served. This case demonstrates that ‘cold cases’ do get solved. Law enforcement never gives up. The justice system works.”


Fort Bend County has resources to support victims and survivors of domestic violence. The number to the Fort Bend County Women’s Center Crisis Hotline is (281) 342-HELP (4357) and the toll-free number to the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233.


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