Houston woman convicted, sentenced in luring victim into MS-13 gang murder

Karla Jackelin Morales by is licensed under
HOUSTON, TX – Jose Alfonso Villanueva was brutally murdered by five members of the gang MS-13 in July of 2018. Police say that Villanueva had been hiding from the gang after allegedly disrespecting them during a rap battle. All five of those individuals have been convicted in his death.

Nearly five years later, a 24-year-old Houston woman has been sentenced to 30 years in prison in connection with his murder.

Karla Jackelin Morales plead guilty to luring Villanueva to that field in the north-Houston suburb of Spring. She accepted the sentence in part of a plea agreement just prior to jury selection was to begin for her murder trial. 

Thinking that they were meeting to smoke marijuana together in celebration of his birthday, Villanueva agreed to meet Morales in the vacant lot. Once he arrived, he was confronted by the men and was attacked with a machete before being shot as he tried to escape. His body was discovered about a week later, according to Houston’s ABC 13.

She was originally scheduled to stand trial in October of 2021, but she cut of her ankle monitor and jumped bail, alluding authorities for approximately nine months.

"[Morales] 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," the Harris County DA’s office said in a press release. "This was a premeditated and planned out attack and we have now been able to get justice for the victim's family."

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston’s Acting Special Agent in Charge spoke to the brutal nature of this crime, saying, "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."

At least one of the men who murdered the 24-year-old was sentenced to 45 years in prison: 21-year-old Francisco Amadeo Flores-Salazar pleaded guilty in October of 2021 in exchange for the sentence.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said at the time, "There is a culture of violence within these gangs that leads to indiscriminate killing and puts all of us in danger. This was a premeditated and cold-blooded murder, not some crime of passion, and the killers deserve to spend decades in prison."

According to the US Department of Justice, “MS-13, which is short for La Mara Salvatrucha, is a gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador. In the United States, MS-13 has been functioning since at least the 1980s. The name ‘Mara Salvatrucha’ is a combination of several slang terms.

The word ‘Mara’ is the term used in El Salvador for ‘gang.’ The phrase ‘Salvatrucha’ is a combination of the words ‘Salva,’ which is an abbreviation for ‘Salvadoran,’ and ‘trucha,’ which is a slang term for ‘alert,’ ‘look out,’ or ‘cunning.’

The ‘13’ refers to the thirteenth letter of the alphabet, or ‘M,’ which denotes the gang’s allegiance to the Mexican Mafia, a prison gang. Their motto is ‘kill, rape, control.’”
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