23-year-old El Salvadorian citizen Jose Leonel Bonilla-Romero (aka Jose Tupapa), has been ordered to federal prison for his role in a horrific gang murder of a teenager in the Sam Houston National Forest in 2013, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
Bonilla-Romero, who resided in Houston, pleaded guilty April 19, 2019.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. handed Bonilla-Romero a 460-month term of imprisonment and ordered him to pay $13,000 in restitution.
As a non-U.S. citizen, he is expected to face removal proceedings following the sentence. If that occurs, the court ordered he must remain outside the country unless lawfully allowed to return.
At the hearing, evidence established the crime was unusually heinous, cruel and degrading.
Judge Werlein noted Bonilla-Romero was the victim’s friend, in handing down the lengthy prison term.
However, he supplied him with alcohol and coerced him to come to the federal land in Huntsville, knowing he was going to be killed, and even struck the first blow.
Bonilla-Romero took a metal baseball bat, concealing it from the victim, and then hid behind him, rushed him and hit him with such force that he fractured his skull.
The court also heard Bonilla-Romero’s conduct in detention was clearly inconsistent with acceptance of responsibility, continuing his allegiance to the MS-13 gang and the use of gang signs in jail.
The victim’s family also spoke, mentioning how they took in Bonilla-Romero and let him share a room with the victim, allowing him to share clothes with their son and giving him food.
The victim’s father asked Bonilla-Romero to repent and accept God. As the judge pronounced the sentence, the victim’s mother wept in back of courtroom.
At the time of his plea, Bonilla-Romero admitted to aiding and abetting two others in the murder of the 16-year-old victim Sept. 22, 2013.
(Learn More. A third suspect is under arrest for the murder of a boy whose body was found in the Sam Houston National Forest. Courtesy of Cags News and YouTube. Posted on Oct 9, 2013.)