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HOUSTON — A Houston woman pleaded guilty and was sentenced Aug. 11 to 30 years in prison for luring a 24-year-old man to a remote area in Spring where five MS-13 gang members brutally attacked him with a machete, shot and killed him.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Houston Police Department conducted the investigation that led to the conviction and sentence.
Karla Jackelin Morales, a 24-year-old resident of Houston, pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced in Harris County for her role in the 2018 killing of Jose Alfonso Villanueva.
Morales lured Villanueva to a field in Spring where the MS-13 members were waiting to kill him. She told him they were going to smoke marijuana to celebrate his birthday. Instead, the gang members, who have all been convicted for their roles in the murder, slashed Villanueva with a machete and then shot him as he tried to run away. They were apparently angry with him because he had disrespected them in a rap battle. His body was found about a week later.
“This woman knowingly lured an innocent man to be murdered by five MS-13 gang members in the most brutal and depraved manner that you could imagine, sending shockwaves and fear throughout the Houston community,” said HSI Houston acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Kurtz. “By working in conjunction with our local law enforcement partners and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, we were able to hold all of the individuals responsible for this horrifying tragedy accountable and hopefully bring some closure to the victim’s family.”
Morales was scheduled to go to trial in October 2021, but she jumped bond and cut off her ankle monitor to escape detection. She was rearrested in Houston about nine months later.
“This defendant jumped bail in 2021 to escape the consequences of her actions, but she was re-arrested and, on the eve of trial this week, pleaded guilty for what she did,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said. “This was a premeditated and planned out attack and we have now been able to get justice for the victim’s family.”
Assistant District Attorney Jason Sanchez, a chief in the DA’s Organized Crime Division, prosecuted the case with Assistant District Attorney Neha Mehtaji.
“This should be cautionary tale to anyone who thinks they may want to join a gang that it doesn’t matter your age, gender or anything else,” Sanchez said. “We will prosecute you for the crimes you commit.”
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.
For more news and information on HSI’s efforts to aggressively investigate transnational gangs in Southeast Texas follow us on X, formerly known as Twitter, @HSIHouston.
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