HOUSTON — On Tuesday, a judge set a $1 million bond for the man accused of killing his girlfriend and dismembering her body with a chainsaw in 2018.
Erik Arceneaux is charged with murder.
It was an emotional day for the family of Maria Jimenez-Rodriguez's family. It was the first time in five years that they came face-to-face with the man accused of killing their loved one.
Arceneaux, 51, was brought into the courtroom handcuffed and wearing a yellow jumpsuit.
"It's hard ... it's just hard to see him there. He's able to see another day of life. He's able to see his family. He's able to give them a call. My sister isn't here to see her daughter. My sister's not here to see her father. My sister isn't here to see me," Maria's sister, Gloria Jimenez, said.
Prosecutors initially asked for a $5 million bond, but after listening to probable cause, a judge set Arceneaux's bond at $1 million.
Maria's family didn't agree with the decision to lower his bond.
Maria's father said Arceneaux should have been held without bond and said the court should be held responsible if he posts bond and runs.
Prosecutors asked for a higher bond amount due to Arceneaux's background. He has twice been convicted of felonies before, including a charge for assaulting another woman that he dated in 2011.
"I believe the judge took into consideration just the heinous nature of this offense. She also took into consideration his criminal history and also the fact that he's been a fugitive from justice for about four years," Harris County Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Nwabeke said.
It was also revealed in court on Tuesday that Maria and Arceneaux met at a gym where he was her trainer before the two started dating. Her family said that he even hung out with her then-3-year-old daughter.
"I want him to see this picture, he took this picture. I want him to remember this moment -- that my sister and niece were very happy," Gloria said.
Maria was 29 when she vanished in June of 2018 while she was supposed to be on her way to work.
Arceneaux is accused of killing her and dismembering her body with a chainsaw. Police said he was caught on camera buying the chainsaw at a Home Depot along with heavy-duty trash bags before Maria disappeared. Later, blood evidence was found inside his bedroom.
Arceneaux was eventually charged with Maria's murder but remained on the run until he was arrested last week.
Maria's remains have not been found.
"I'm hoping that he confesses where she's at, so I'm able to put her to rest," Gloria said. "We just want justice and we want Maria home."
If convicted, Arceneaux could face up to 99 years in prison.