HOUSTON — The third and final MS-13 gang member has been convicted in the brutal 2013 murder of a 16-year-old boy, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Jose Leonel Bonilla Romero aka Jose Tupapa, 23, pleaded guilty for his role in the teen's murder, according to U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
The mutilated body of 16-year-old Josael Guevara was discovered Sept. 23, 2013 in the Sam Houston National Forest.
Romero is an El Salvadorian citizen who admitted to murdering the Klein Forest High School sophomore with two other gang members.
The other members - Cristian Alexander Zamora aka Christian Zamora, Alex or Pollo, 28, and Ricardo Leonel Campos Lara aka La Muerte, 23, are both also of El Salvador.
The men explained that a gang leader had ordered them to kill the victim, because he had supposedly cooperated with police in El Salvador, leading to the arrests of several MS-13 gang members.
The juvenile victim was intoxicated when they took him to the federal land in Huntsville. Romero admitted that once there, he struck the victim first with a baseball bat in the back of the head before the others butchered the victim's body with machetes.
Zamora and Lara lived in Huntsville and Houston, respectively. They also previously pleaded guilty and are currently serving their federal prison sentences.
Romero, Zamora and Lara lured the boy to Sam Houston National Forest where the three of them attacked him with bats and machetes, police said.
At the hearing on Friday, the victim's family wept as they heard the gruesome details of the killing.
U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein asked Romero "you're intent at the time was to kill him?" to which Romero replied "yes."
Judge Werlein accepted the plea on Friday and has set sentencing for June 21, 2019. At that time, Romero faces up to life in prison. Romero has been and will remain in custody pending that hearing.
Judge Werlein sentenced Zamora and Lara in 2016, both of whom received 420-month prison terms. They were further ordered to pay $13,092.42 in restitution.
In handing down those sentences, the court noted the "willful and deliberate crime," commenting that the murder was particularly brutal and was of a heinous, gruesome and savage nature.
READ: Man arrested, charged with murder in connection with Klein Forest student’s death
The FBI, Houston Police Department, Texas Rangers, Walker County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Forest Service conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark E. Donnelly and Casey MacDonald are prosecuting the case.
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