ezekiel gilbert
Ezekiel Gilbert, 30, was found not guilty of murdering an escort he found on Craigslist. Gilbert's lawyers argued that because Lenora Ivie Frago had left his house with the $150 he'd paid her, without having sex with him, he was within his rights to use deadly force to retrieve his property. Handout

A Texas jury acquitted a man of the murder of a prostitute on the grounds that he was entitled to shoot her because she had “stolen” his property by taking his money without having sex with him. The jury accepted Ezekiel Gilbert's claim that he was only trying to retrieve his money when he shot 23-year-old Lenora Ivie Frago -- an escort whom he'd met on Craigslist -- in the neck on Dec. 24, 2009, and hadn’t meant to kill her. Frago was paralyzed by the gunshot wound and died seven months later.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, the altercation happened on Christmas Eve when Frago arrived at Gilbert's apartment, accepted $150 from him for what he believed was payment for sex, and then left. In court, Gilbert, 30, testified that Frago spent 20 minutes in his apartment before she left, telling him that she needed to pay her driver.

Defense attorneys Bobby Barrera and Roy Barrera Sr. claimed that Frago's "driver" had been her pimp, and argued that under Texas law Gilbert had been within his rights to use deadly force to recover his stolen property. Texas law allows citizens to use such force to “retrieve stolen property at night” or to hinder a burglar from escaping the scene of a crime during the night, as long as the person “reasonably” thinks that they have no other means of protecting their property, Think Progress reported.

“I sincerely regret the loss of the life of Ms. Frago,” Gilbert said Wednesday. “I've been in a mental prison the past four years of my life. I have nightmares. If I see guns on TV where people are getting killed, I change the channel.”

Prosecutors argued that the act of solicitation undercut the defense’s claim, telling jurors that the Texas statute was intended for “law-abiding citizens,” not for those trying to force others into prostitution. After hearing the not-guilty verdict, Gilbert reportedly broke down in tears and hugged both of his attorneys. He told reporters outside the court that he thanked God, the Barreras and the jurors for their ability to “see what wasn’t the truth,” and to give him a “second chance.”