Latin Kings Gangmember Fled The U.S. 20 Years Ago After Texas Teen’s Murder
Felicia Ruiz, 17, had just started socializing with the Latin Kings when she was found dead with more than 20 stab wounds.
HOUSTON, TX — Carrie and Lou Ruiz remember every feature about their 17-year-old daughter Felicia, who had her entire life ahead of her.
“Felicia was … very rambunctious, active. She wanted to be a school teacher,” Carrie says. “I would hear her in her room … she’d have all of her stuffed animals lined up. And she had her chalkboard, and she would act like she was teaching,” Carrie adds.
Her father says she had good grades, excelled in school, and was liked by many.
“Felicia stayed home a lot. When Felicia would leave, Felicia would say, ‘Mom and Dad, I’m going down here. I’ll be back a little while.’ When she would say her word, her word was true. She was a good girl,” Lou shares with In Pursuit With John Walsh.
JEALOUSY TAKES OVER
Once Felicia made it to high school, there was a shift. She found herself the target of jealousy by other students. Carrie remembers, “She met a boy named Casey [Wild]. There was just something about him that wasn’t right. There were a lot of girls in the school that liked Casey. And so, they gave Felicia a hard time.”
Carrie recalls one incident in particular when she and her husband had to step in. “There was a girl at the school. She would walk behind Felicia and say things, ugly things. And Felicia would ignore and go on about her way. This one particular day — the girl came up behind her and told Felicia, ‘Today you’re gonna die, bitch. Today you’re gonna die.’” Within a matter of moments, Felicia lost her cool and fought the girl.
“After that was when we decided to pull Felicia out of school,” Carrie says. The bullying had become too much for Felicia and her family.
Instead of attending high school, Felicia would take GED classes in the morning. In the afternoon, her schedule was open. This meant she could spend time with Wild, but there was concern when it came to him and to their relationship.
“Casey hung with a lot of the Latin Kings. And Felicia did say that Casey wanted to join the Latin Kings. We weren’t real happy with Felicia you know, being involved with him,” Carrie adds. Despite her reservations, Carrie says she trusted her daughter’s instincts.
Sometimes friends would come over to the house, and that’s when Felicia was introduced to Jesus Salazar, then 19. Neither Felicia nor her family knew that Salazar was also involved with the gang — but Latin Kings members looked to him as their leader.
As time went on, Carrie and Lou said Salazar spent more time with their daughter. He was trying to get her to join the Latin Kings, but she didn’t want any part of it. Despite being “mesmerized” by the gang life, according to her mother, Felicia had no intention of joining up herself.
HALLOWEEN PARTY NIGHTMARE
On October 29, 1999, Felicia was invited to a Halloween party by Salazar. Carrie remembers walking her daughter out to Salazar’s waiting vehicle. “She went to crawl into the car in the backseat. And she raised back up and she said to me, ‘I love you, mom.’”
Carrie says Salazar didn’t say a word. He only nodded when she told him to have her home in an hour and a half. But Carrie was waiting up longer than that. “I stayed up, I always stayed up until Felicia got home,” she says. “But then 12:30, 1 came — nothing. She didn’t call. She didn’t — nothing … 1:30, 2, still nothing. By 3, I said, ‘No, there’s something not right.’”
Carrie said she woke up her husband and they went out looking for her daughter. The couple was out all night long searching, but they never found her. And Felicia’s friends said they didn’t know of any party. By lunch that next afternoon, the family filed a missing person’s report.
“It was around 4 or 5 in the afternoon. And my mom called and said, ‘They found a girl’s body in a field,’” Carrie remembers.
Police made the trip to Carrie and Lou’s home. “Lou swung the door open, and he saw two detectives. But he looked in the backseat and she wasn’t in there. And he knew what they were fixing to come and tell us. And it was probably, I mean that’s the worst thing that could ever happen to a parent is, you know, when they come in and hear those words,” Carrie says.
FELICIA FOUND MURDERED, LOVED ONES STUNNED
Carrie says she remembers all of Felicia’s friends coming to their home, including Salazar, who arrived with Wild. “So I jumped off the couch and went flying outside, and he was standing there. I ran right up to him and I hit him as hard as I could with my fist in the chest and I said, ‘You killed my daughter, you son of a bitch. I know you killed my daughter,’ and he kept saying, ‘No, I didn’t, no, I didn’t.’”
They called 911, and when officers arrived, they picked up Salazar and took him in for questioning. Carrie didn’t mince words, telling the police she believed he was the person who killed her daughter.
Retired Detective Steven Straughter tells In Pursuit, “Jesus denied even being involved in it. I think he admitted to knowing her, but he didn’t admit to the murder. So we had no choice but to let him go at that point.”
For weeks, the case was quiet. That is, until a tipster came forward. “We got a call; a witness stated that a guy named Jay Ferrel had come over to his home and was telling him about the incident,” Straughter said. Ferrel reportedly shared that Salazar and his girlfriend were responsible for the murder.
Also, investigators learned that Salazar’s girlfriend, Lisa Huerta, wasn’t happy about his friendship with Felicia. Even while Felicia was being buried, Carrie remembers, “Lisa had Felicia’s obituary in her hand. They drove past, and we were standing there, and they stopped kind of right there where we were, and she raised up Felicia’s obituary and she was laughing. So, you know, that’s the type of person she was.”
ONE LEAD TURNS INTO ANOTHER
Not long after investigators received their first lead, a second tip came in. It was from an unlikely source — Lisa Huerta’s mother, who revealed that her daughter was packing her stuff and looked like she was getting ready to take off. When the authorities confronted Huerta at her home, she went willingly with them and even agreed to take a polygraph test.
On the way to the police station, Straughter said he made a surprise stop. “We decided to stop by the location where Felicia was found. We said, ‘Well, let’s get out and go in this field for a little bit. I want to see something.’” Straughter said that when Huerta got out of the car and saw she was near the area where Felicia was murdered, “She falls out and starts crying on the ground.”
But once they got to the police station, Straughter said she then refused to give a statement or take a polygraph. He had no choice but to let her go at that point.
It wasn’t until two months later that Carrie says, “We got a phone call from Straughter. He said that Lisa had … turned herself in.” Carrie and Lou then were able to learn just how their daughter was murdered.
“Jesus Salazar had came to pick her up supposedly to go to a party. So he had another guy at the car, which was Jay Ferrel. Lisa says they lured her out in the field. And once they got in the middle of the field, at that point, Jesus cold-cocked her on the right side,” Straughter tells In Pursuit.
Investigators believe Ferrel held Felicia’s legs down while Salazar and Huerta allegedly stabbed her body over and over. The information was a surprise to detectives, as they didn’t suspect that Ferrel was a part of the murder until Huerta’ confession. Straughter said the DA then issued a warrant for Ferrel.
Huerta also hinted that the motive was that Felicia didn’t want to join the gang. “And that’s when these 20-something stab wounds come into play,” Straughter adds.
But Straughter isn’t convinced that was the only motive, “I think the underlining deal on this was it was jealousy also mixed in there. There was a possibility that Felicia had kind of been involved with him too.”
Huerta also gave insight into how Salazar fled the country. “The father sent a plane over to Miami to pick him up, and that’s how he was transported to Venezuela. And when the plane arrived, from what we’re learning from Lisa, is that he told her, ‘You can’t go. I’m going by myself,” Straughter adds.
Salazar’s refusal to take her with him was what precipitated her turning herself in. Although Lisa had confessed and Ferrel had been arrested, Salazar has been presumably been living free in Venezuela for the past two decades.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Cameron Welch tells In Pursuit, “There’s a few countries that are like brick walls. And Venezuela, at times, more recently, has been a brick wall. It’s been pretty frustrating.”
Although it’s incredibly difficult knowing where their daughter’s alleged killer is hiding, Carrie and Lou aren’t giving up. “We’re not going to quit on her because that was the last thing we promised her before they closed the casket,” Carrie adds.
As for Huerta, she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Ferrel was also found guilty of murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison, set to be released in 2019.
There are currently two warrants out for Salazar's arrest. The Harris County Sheriff’s Department is seeking him for murder and the FBI also has a warrant for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
TRAITS & CHARACTERISTICS:
- Weight: 165 pounds
- Height: 5 feet 10 inches
- Sex: Male
- Race: Hispanic
- Eyes: Brown
- Hair: Black
- Date of birth: October 6, 1981
- Current age: 37
- Tattoos: Multiple; the name “SALAZAR” in Gothic letters tattooed across his chest
- Last seen: November 1999, in Miami, but believed to be living in Venezuela
If you know anything about this case or where to find this suspect, please contact our hotline (833-3-PURSUE) or submit a tip online.
For more on this case, watch the “The Escape Artist” episode of In Pursuit With John Walsh on Wednesday, March 6 at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery! Or catch up on ID GO.