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Machete murder: Suspect in 'vicious execution' on the run after skipping bail, DA's office says

Karla Morales, 20, cut off her ankle monitor with GPS tracking and jumped bail just days before her October 2021 trial was set to begin, the DA's office says.

HOUSTON — A woman charged in connection with a horrific machete murder by MS-13 gang members is on the run, and a reward is being offered for tips leading to her capture.

Karla Jackelin Morales, 20, helped lure the victim to his death, according to Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg

Ogg said Morales cut off her GPS ankle monitor and jumped bail days before her October 2021 trial was set to begin. She said Morales was freed on a $60,000 bond at the time even though prosecutors had asked for a $250,000 bond.

“She helped plan and plot this vicious execution, and somebody out there knows where she is hiding,” Ogg said.  

According to Ogg, Morales lured 24-year-old Jose Villanueva to a field in Spring where his killers were waiting back in 2018. She told the victim they were going to smoke weed to celebrate his birthday, Ogg said.

Instead, several MS-13 members hacked him with machetes shot him repeatedly as he tried to crawl away. Ogg said the gang members were angry at Villanueva for making fun of the gang in a rap music battle.

Morales goes by the nicknames “Cherry,” “Karlita,” “Missy” and “Foxy.” She is 5 feet tall with a heavy build. She has black hair and brown eyes, as well as tattoos, including a large one on her upper left chest that reads “Alicia.”

Five gang members who slaughtered Villanueva have already been convicted and sentenced to prison. Morales is the last to face trial.

“There is a culture of violence within these gangs that leads to indiscriminate killing and puts all of us in danger,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said after one of the killers known as "Psycho'' was sentenced to 45 years. “This was a premeditated and cold-blooded murder, not some crime of passion, and the killers deserve to spend decades in prison.”

Jose Villanueva, 24, was murdered with a machete by MS-13 gang members in 2018.

Morales was born in California but has family in Central America, including Honduras and El Salvador. Authorities believe she may still be in the Houston area.

Andy Kahn, with Crime Stoppers Houston, is frustrated with the bond process.

"Her bond gets plummeted,” Kahn said. “Dropped from $250,000 to $60,000 and she gets out.”

Kahn believes once she realized the other five people who were convicted got lengthy prison sentences, she decided to take her chances on the run.

“So, you take off the ankle monitor and now you are gone. And now Crime Stoppers has to put up a $5,000 reward for getting this person back in custody where she should’ve been in the first place," Kahn said.

Kahn has been a proponent of higher bonds for violent offenders. He believes an ankle monitor simply isn’t enough to hold a defendant accountable and would like these defendants treated in a similar fashion as escaped inmates.

“There should be an alert or app to law enforcement, the public and media to be on the lookout. But we treat these cases like night and day, perhaps it’s time to change our mindset," Kahn said.

Crime Stoppers of Houston is offering a reward of $5,000 for information leading to her capture. Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.

Ogg said authorities will not ask the immigration status of potential tipsters, and they can remain anonymous, even when they get paid.

On the eve of trial, Francisco Amadeo Flores-Salazar, 21, pleaded guilty Friday in exchange for a 45-year-sentence.

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