Unresolved robbery cases for man sentenced to death in Border Patrol agent’s killing

January 16, 2019

While Ismael Hernandez-Vallejo learned Tuesday that he will spend 50 years in prison for the 2014 killing of an off-duty Border Patrol agent, his co-defendant, who has been sentenced to death, still has several unresolved aggravated robbery cases.

Gustavo Tijerina-Sandoval, who was sentenced to death after being convicted of capital murder and attempted capital murder in June after a six-week jury trial, last appeared in court on Jan. 7 where he was scheduled for trial on four separate aggravated robbery cases that happened in the months before he and Hernandez-Vallejo shot and killed agent Javier Vega Jr., and shot and injured the man’s father, Javier Vega Sr., on Aug. 3, 2014, while the Vega’s were on a family outing fishing near Santa Monica in Willacy County.

During that hearing, 445th state District Judge Gloria Rincones allowed a motion for continuance, pushing the trial date in those cases to March 18.

Tijerina-Sandoval, who has not been transferred to death row, still faces two counts of aggravated robbery stemming from an incident on June 22, 2014; two counts of aggravated robbery and a count of engaging in an organized criminal conspiracy on July 6, 2014; and one count of aggravated robbery from an incident on June 16, 2014.

In 2014, Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio said his arrest helped authorities crack down on a string of armed robberies at remote fishing spots in the Rio Hondo area.

After Tijerina-Sandoval’s co-defendant, Hernandez-Vallejo, entered a plea deal with the Willacy County District Attorney’s Office, 197th state District Judge held a hearing regarding Tijerina-Sandoval’s appeal. He was not present.

That hearing regarded a Jan. 3, 13th Court of Criminal Appeals hearing that sent the case back to Lopez’s court because the entire record of Tijerina-Sandoval’s capital murder and attempted capital murder case had not been completed.

"The reporter has now filed a request for extension until May 30, 2019 to file the record. The request states that the record in the appeal is approximately 11,000 pages and covers seven months of testimony," the 13th Court of Criminal Appeals states.

After Hernandez-Vallejo’s sentencing, Lopez heard testimony on how much more work the clerks had before the record in Tijerina-Sandoval’s case was complete and will report her findings to the 13th Court of Criminal Appeals.

As part of Hernandez-Vallejo’s plea deal, he agreed to testify against Tijerina-Sandoval in any appeals hearings or re-trials and he also agreed not to appeal his own case.


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