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Woman charged in MS-13 machete murder is on the run; reward offered

Karla Jackelin Morales
Karla Jackelin Morales

February 9, 2022

A woman charged with murder for luring a man to his death at the hands of machete-wielding MS-13 gang members is on the run and a reward is being offered for tips leading to her capture, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Wednesday.

Karla Jackelin Morales, 20, cut off her ankle monitor with GPS tracking abilities and jumped bail just days before her October 2021 trial was set to begin for her role in the 2018 shooting and machete killing of 24-year-old Jose Villanueva.

Authorities had hoped to capture Morales in recent weeks but are now asking for the public’s help.

“She helped plan and plot this vicious execution, and somebody out there knows where she is hiding, Ogg said. “You can do the right thing by helping deliver justice for Jose’s family, and you can collect a reward for your efforts.”

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

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.”

The defendant was set for trial on Oct. 25 and was free on a $60,000 bond. On Oct. 20, she cut off her ankle monitor, which included a GPS tracking device, and absconded. She has since been charged with bond jumping.

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

On July 29, 2018, Morales lured Villanueva, who liked soccer and rap music, to a grassy field near a Spring elementary school to smoke marijuana, a belated birthday gift. Once he got there, several MS-13 members hacked him with machetes, and then, as he tried to crawl away, shot him repeatedly with a handgun. Villanueva had been hiding from the gang members, who were searching for him for allegedly disparaging the gang in a rap-music battle. In a scheme that was planned for weeks, Morales delivered Villanueva into the hands of his attackers.

His wracked and decomposing remains were found days later.

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.

Back when Morales was charged, prosecutors asked a magistrate judge to set her bond at $250,000. The judge instead set it at $100,000. A district court judge later lowered the bond to $60,000 and waived the defendant’s fees for an ankle monitor. She failed to show up for a hearing days before her trial was to begin and hasn’t been seen since.

The case is being prosecuted by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office’s Gangs and Organized Crime Division. It was investigated by the Houston Police Department’s Gangs Division.

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.

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