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.

It was a Tuesday, four days after the murder, when Carrie and Lou Ruiz were at the mortuary getting ready for the funeral service scheduled for the following day. They had not been allowed to see their daughter until then because she suffered so many deep wounds that the embalming fluid was still leaking out of her. The funeral home staff had asked Lou Ruiz the day before to bring along a shirt with a high neck and long sleeves to cover up the many cuts.

The Ruizes, accompanied by family members and police, noticed a car slowly driving past. Carrie Ruiz couldn't believe who was inside. It was Huerta and two other girls. When Carrie Ruiz looked more closely, she saw Huerta was waving Felicia's obituary out of the window, laughing. Carrie went to rush out toward the car, but family members held her back. Huerta drove off after police told her to leave.

"At the time," says Carrie Ruiz, "we just figured Huerta was making fun of Felicia as some kind of gang thing."

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.

The next day at the funeral, the church was packed full of friends, family, police and well-wishers who had read or heard about the tragic death on the news.

In fact, there were so many people that Carrie and Lou Ruiz did not even notice at first that Huerta and Salazar were there too. But by the time the parents did realize it, both Huerta and Salazar had left the church and disappeared.

Now convinced that the two lovers were involved in their daughter's murder, Carrie and Lou Ruiz returned home after the burial feeling a vicious mix of anger and pain. Motivated by a need to do something, anything, they grabbed their gun, jumped in the car and lit out along Interstate 10 to San Antonio where they knew Huerta had grown up.

"I was going to look for Lisa and kill her," says Carrie Ruiz.

They drove around but did not find Huerta. Instead, they spent the night in San Antonio and returned home to Houston the next morning.

"I was so out of my mind with grief at that point that I just didn't care," says Carrie Ruiz. "I wanted them to hurt the same way I was hurting. In the end, though, thank God we didn't find her."

It would be months before anyone would find out where Huerta and Salazar had gone.

Covered in blood, Salazar and Huerta parted ways with Ferrel after stabbing Felicia Ruiz and walked over to a nearby motel.

The day before, Huerta had paid cash for a room at the Shoney's Inn on West Tidwell Road, just a few blocks from the murder scene. There, she, Salazar and Ferrel watched TV and Salazar taught Huerta how to make a person bleed to death faster by slitting his throat.

Now, safely back inside their room, Salazar and Huerta scrubbed their hands and washed off the knife. That night, Salazar slept in the bed while Huerta dozed off in a chair next to a window.

Salazar "acted like it was just another day," Huerta testified in court.

Saturday morning, the two teens checked out of the motel, ran a few errands and then went back to Salazar's apartment that he shared with his mother. That evening, testified Huerta, Salazar's mother told them that police had found a dead girl in a field behind their apartment complex. The mother then got rid of her son's blood-stained clothes and told him to leave.

On Sunday night, while Carrie and Lou Ruiz were dealing with police and reporters, Salazar and several friends stopped by the Ruizes' home. One of the TV news stations had broadcast an interview of Carrie Ruiz saying she thought Salazar was involved because he was the last person her daughter had been seen with. Salazar wanted to tell her he had nothing to do with it.

"It was a big confrontation," says Lou Ruiz. "Salazar said he didn't do anything and then Carrie went and hit him, calling him a liar. We had relatives in the house with guns and Salazar and his friends could have had guns and it all could have gotten real bad real fast."

Instead, Lou called over a police officer who then took Salazar in for questioning.

According to the police report, Salazar's right hand was swollen and bruised, but he denied ever going out with Felicia Ruiz that Friday night. Investigator Straughter says police did not have enough evidence at the time connecting Salazar to the murder, so they turned him loose.

That night, Salazar went over to Huerta's house to warn her that the police had just questioned him. Then on Monday morning, knowing Huerta and Salazar had dated, Straughter showed up at Huerta's home. Like Salazar, Huerta said she knew nothing about the murder. Straughter then drove her to the grassy lot, where Huerta dropped to her knees and broke down sobbing. Police detained Huerta for the night in jail on a misdemeanor warrant out of Bexar County, but on Tuesday Huerta paid a fine and was once again free.

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