HOUSTON—A local activist says a woman accused of taking part in the brutal murder of a man who was deliberately set on fire has confessed the crime, explaining that it was part of a gang initiation.
“This was planned,” said Quanell X. “She began to describe to me how she was recording it on her phone while they were beating him and while he was on fire.”
Quanell X said he spoke with Esterrell Simpson behind bars, where she has remained ever since she was arrested and charged with murder.
Surveillance cameras recorded video of the 18-year-old walking with two men, one of them identified as 24-year-old Maurice Eugene Hollis, moments before they allegedly hunted down their victim, who they had never even met before.
Carlos Hernandez, 30, an immigrant from El Salvador, was attacked across the street from his northwest Houston apartment complex.
“She said they were all Black Disciple gang members,” said Quanell X. “She said one of them was a Blood, who had just become a Black Disciple gang member and this was part of her initiation and his.”
Messages were left for Simpson’s attorney, but phone calls were not returned.
Homicide detectives said they were investigating a possible gang connection to the crime.
The victim’s cousin said police have told her Hernandez was likely the random target of a gang initiation.
“Police have told us that’s what could have happened,” said Carmon Garcia. “It just hurts us a lot because they chose the wrong person.”
Authorities have released composite sketches of the two men they believe also joined in the attack. The men allegedly ran the streets with Simpson.
“She said, ‘We had been riding around all week and were committing other little crimes,’” said Quanell X.
Detectives have not yet released the victim’s body.
His family was still trying to raise $4,000 to send his remains to his mother in El Salvador.
Hollis was charged with murder and his bond was set at $50,000.