Chuck Rosenthal: So Tough on Crime That a Suspect Goes Free

The DA doesn't make deals. And that's why Jesus Salazar is living the free life in Venezuela while a teenage girl lies dead, stabbed 26 times.

He was a member of the Latin Kings street gang, but unlike many gangsters he did not have a rap sheet of arrests. Felicia Ruiz was enchanted by the gangster life, which her parents believe accounted for her fascination with Salazar. Plus, it was all around her. Both Eisenhower High and her north Houston neighborhood were riddled with gangs, her parents say.

"Felicia kind of got infatuated by all the gang stuff and used to talk about it a lot," says Lou Ruiz. "I think a lot of her friendship with Jesus had to do with the fact he was in a gang. She showed me a book one time about gangs and said that 'Trouble' was telling her all about them. He kind of got her in this gang mentality and that it was a cool thing. I told her to stay away from all that, and she said she just liked hearing about it all but that she didn't want to ever join one."

Felicia Ruiz was an attractive, unassuming girl with golden-brown eyes and long black hair that she typically flung over to one side. She had a baby voice, and police later said she looked no older than 14. As a child, she dreamed of being a kindergarten teacher, but as she got older she wanted to be an ultrasound technician.

Felicia Ruiz thought she was going to a party the night she died.
Photo courtesy of the Ruiz family
Felicia Ruiz thought she was going to a party the night she died.
Jesus Salazar posed for this mug shot before police let him go.
Jesus Salazar posed for this mug shot before police let him go.

"She loved her family very much and was the kind of girl who always thought with her heart instead of her head," says Carrie Ruiz. "She saw the bad in no one."

Felicia Ruiz had always been an A/B student, but in 1997 after her sophomore year, her mother pulled her out of school. Carrie Ruiz says she began fearing for her daughter's life because a group of girls were continually threatening and picking on her. As a result, Felicia Ruiz was involved in several fights. She always fought back, just as her mother had taught her, but was never suspended or expelled, says Carrie Ruiz. The only reason Carrie Ruiz gives for why her daughter was tormented is that the other girls were simply jealous of Felicia's boyfriend, Casey Wild.

In one instance, a girl attacked Felicia Ruiz at a school bus stop. Ruiz defended herself, banging the girl's head against a nearby wall and sending her to the doctor for stitches. Carrie Ruiz says the girl who started the fight with her daughter was expelled.

"She did not want to be taken out of school," says Carrie Ruiz, "but I was worried about her safety. I did not trust all these little gangster girls who were going after her. I even had to change our phone number because they were calling all the time harassing Felicia."

Pulling Felicia from school did not end the trouble. According to court records, in June 1999, four months before her murder, Felicia and three friends went over to a girl's house in the middle of the day for a fight. Felicia never threw a punch, but after two others did, she called her older brother Jason Ruiz for a ride out of there. When Jason arrived, he became upset about how the girls were treating his sister and ended up getting arrested for aggravated assault, which ultimately resulted in him getting a lengthy prison sentence.

Despite all the chaos, Felicia Ruiz was studying to take the GED at Carver High School and planned on attending the University of Houston.

It is unclear exactly how Lisa Huerta entered everybody's life. Huerta testified at Ferrel's trial that she met Felicia Ruiz through a neighborhood kid, while Carrie and Lou Ruiz say Felicia met Huerta through Salazar. Regardless of who knew whom first, it was obvious to the Ruizes that Huerta was no good.

"She was very disrespectful and rude, unlike the rest of Felicia's friends," says Carrie Ruiz. "And very quickly Felicia did not care for her at all."

Huerta grew up in San Antonio, and joined the West Side Kings gang when she was 14. She was expelled from school in ninth grade but earned her GED. At 18, she and her mother moved to Houston. From prison, Huerta denied the Houston Press's request for an interview.

Salazar and Huerta dated briefly in the months leading up to Felicia Ruiz's murder. From time to time, Salazar would just show up at Ruiz's home with Huerta. On at least two occasions, Carrie Ruiz asked her daughter to get Huerta out of her home for being rude or acting inappropriately.

Unless Salazar is captured and interrogated, it may never be known exactly why Felicia Ruiz was killed.

There are several theories. One is that it was all over a boy.

Huerta testified in court that she and Felicia had a falling out about a month before the murder because Huerta was "messing around" with Ruiz's boyfriend, Casey Wild. Straughter describes Wild as a boy who wanted badly to join the Latin Kings but could not because he was white.

"Felicia and Casey dated about two years," says Carrie Ruiz, "but I never understood what she saw in him. He was a little gangster wannabe. Maybe it was just that whole first-love thing."

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