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.

Wild was killed in a car accident three years after Ruiz's murder, says Carrie Ruiz.

Huerta claimed she was no longer dating Salazar when she was fooling around with Wild, but still Salazar wanted Huerta to stop. One day, Felicia Ruiz confronted Salazar about Huerta's behavior and criticized him for putting up with Huerta. Ruiz's comments got back to Salazar's friends and embarrassed him. Salazar later told Huerta that he "wanted to slice (Felicia's) throat for talking shit," said Huerta.

The versions offered by Straughter and Carrie Ruiz are far less convoluted.

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.

Huerta "was jealous of Felicia's friendship with Salazar," says Carrie Ruiz. "Plus, Salazar was mad because Felicia did not like him as a boyfriend. We heard that Huerta told Salazar he could prove his love by killing Felicia."

Lou Ruiz also says that Salazar felt disrespected by Felicia when she told him in front of all his gangster friends that she didn't want to join his clique.

Straughter says police don't know the real reason Felicia was killed. He too believes it was a combination of factors, including Salazar's impression that Ruiz was trying to cause trouble between two rival gangs and because Huerta felt Ruiz posed a threat to Huerta's relationship with Salazar.

The final player in all of this was Jay Ferrel. He was a member of the 43rd Street Crips, another rival gang to the Latin Kings. However, he and Salazar lived in the same building and were friendly. Ferrel apparently owed Salazar a favor for ditching Salazar at a party one night when a fight broke out. Also, Ferrel was allegedly upset with Felicia Ruiz after she identified a pair of Ferrel's fellow gang members to police who had attacked one of Ruiz's friends.

With all this jealousy, animosity, twisted street pride and disrespect in swing, Salazar told Huerta two days before the murder that they were going to kill Felicia Ruiz.

At first "I laughed at him," Huerta testified. But the next day, Salazar phoned Huerta to say Ruiz had agreed to go to a Halloween party.

Only, of course, the party did not exist.
_____________________

At 3 a.m., Carrie Ruiz was walking the walls. Her daughter hadn't come home yet and it didn't make sense. Felicia had never pulled an all-nighter like this and just disappeared after a party without so much as a phone call.

As parents, they had to do something, so Carrie and Lou Ruiz did the only thing they could think of: They jumped in the car and drove around the neighborhood looking for their daughter.

Exhausted and more worried than ever, Lou finally went to bed while his wife stayed up all night smoking cigarettes and hoping the phone would ring with good news. In the morning, Lou Ruiz headed off to his job as a meat-cutter at Food Town. Along the way, he unknowingly drove by the field where his daughter lay.

By late morning, Carrie Ruiz called the Houston police. She told an officer that her daughter had not come home and filed a missing persons report.

Then she waited. Finally, about 7 p.m. an officer called her back. The policewoman said that police had found Felicia Ruiz and that another officer would be back in touch with her shortly.

Earlier that afternoon, Baytown police officer Mike Liles was mowing his lawn in the 5300 block of Ted Street. It had rained that morning, and finally he could get outside to do his Saturday chores. He noticed something in the vacant field adjacent to his home. It only took him a second to recognize what he saw: a body, lying face-down. Liles immediately called the Houston Police Department.

It was dark outside by the time Investigator Steven Straughter parked his police cruiser in front of the Ruizes' residence.

"He told us that Felicia was dead," says Lou Ruiz. "Carrie went into shock and I wanted to go out and find whoever did it. It was chaos. We just didn't know what was going on."

Carrie Ruiz called her sister and started crying over and over into the phone, "They said Felicia's dead! They said Felicia's dead!"

The last thing she remembers hearing that night were her sister's screams.

"You feel yourself die in that very instant," says Carrie Ruiz, "and you don't ever feel the life come back into you again. You feel like you've gone totally insane in that moment. And you can't breathe and you keep telling yourself, 'It's not true, it's not true. Just go get her and bring her home.'"

For the rest of the night and the following day, waves of police officers and news reporters flooded the Ruizes' yard and home.

Felicia Ruiz's parents still have never seen the crime scene photographs taken of their daughter. Carrie Ruiz's brother-in-law identified Felicia's body by the tattoo she had of her name written across her back atop a thorny rose. For months afterwards, he would wake up screaming from the nightmares.

"He said Felicia didn't even look human, Salazar had messed her up so bad," says Carrie Ruiz.

At this point, no one knew who killed Felicia or why. All her parents knew was that they last saw her driving off to a party with Salazar. The thought that Huerta was involved did not even enter their minds.

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