The Harris County District Attorney has confirmed that José Luis Peña has been sentenced to 50 years for sexually abusing three children. Peña, a 62-year-old Baytown resident, was found guilty of abusing a boy in 1982 and two girls beginning in 1998. The prosecutor, Kim Ogg, stated that law enforcement and prosecutors worked hard to uncover all the evil acts committed by Peña and obtain justice for the victims. The hope is that Peña will never be able to hurt anyone again.
During the trial, jurors heard that Peña sexually abused a girl once and another girl several times over three years starting in 1998. The victims, now grown women, alerted the Houston Police Department about the assaults. The investigation also revealed that Peña sexually abused an 8-year-old boy when he was around 19 years old in 1982. After being convicted, Peña was sentenced to 50 years.
The trial was prosecuted by Deputy Prosecutors of District Wesley Stafford and Andrew Sanchez, who are assigned to the District Attorney’s Crimes Against Children Division. Stafford stated that this case shows that it is never too late to tell what happened. He commended the victims for their strength and love for each other, which enabled them to get the justice they deserve.
Texas offers many resources for reporting abuse or family violence. The Department of Family and Protective Services offers a phone number and website to report child abuse: 1-800-252-5400 and the Texas Abuse Hotline. Anyone who believes that a minor, adult over 65 years old, or person with a disability is being abused, exploited, or mistreated has the duty to report the case to the authorities, as established by Texas law. The department reminds that, if a person reports abuse in good faith, they are exempt from being accused of criminal or civil crimes.
In another incident, the body of 21-year-old Idania Campos Muñoz was found by her father in the trunk of her car. Her ex-boyfriend, Ariel Cruz, confessed to the crime. The Hispanic woman’s parents have criticized the actions of the local police.
On November 28, Idania left in her car to accompany her sisters to school, as was customary, at 8:00 am. The family last spoke with her around 8:20 am. After leaving them, her parents assumed that Idania had gone to Houston Community College, where she was studying. However, Idania stopped responding to messages from her parents, which immediately alerted them.
Ariel Cruz, 19, confessed that he fatally shot his ex-girlfriend in the parking lot of a Houston-area shopping plaza. He then kept the body in the trunk of Idania’s Honda Civic and took it to the Meyerland area. This version agrees with what the victim’s father, Mr. Cosme Campos, said, who stated that after hours of waiting, they decided to track the young woman’s cell phone and ended up finding her black Honda Civic, parked in the area of the 5400 block on Indigo Street, in the Meyerland area.
According to Campos, they decided to alert the Houston authorities, who supposedly arrived two hours after the complaint. When the police arrived, they asked for help to be reported missing and to open her car to get her cell phone out. The authorities allegedly told the girl’s parents that they did not see anything suspicious outside the car and they should wait at least 24 hours to accept the report. Around 5:30 pm, on November 28, Mr. Cosme forced entry into the Honda, opened the trunk, and found his daughter without vital signs.
Houston Fire Department paramedics responded to the scene and pronounced the woman dead. Subsequent investigations identified Ariel Cruz, his ex-boyfriend, as a suspect, who had been with the family since the afternoon trying to find the victim. On November 29, the Houston Police Department confirmed the arrest of 19-year-old Ariel Cruz, who confessed to having murdered his ex-girlfriend and hiding the body in the trunk of his own car southwest of the city.
Cruz is charged with murder in the 184th State District Court, he is detained in the Harris County Jail and his bond was set at $500,000. In an interview, Mr. Cosme Campos asked the authorities for all the weight of the law against the suspect and for justice to be done. He also criticized the actions of the authorities during the disappearance and discovery of the body of the girl.
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