Karen Perez was a 15-year-old girl from Houston, Texas. In 2016, she had just recently celebrated her Quinceañera and had ambitions to one day work in a care home or an animal shelter. She was known to be extremely compassionate and caring and excelled in school. “Her words were as soft as rose petals; she wouldn’t harm a fly,”recalled her friend, while her friend described her as “always smiling and laughing.”1
On the 27th of May, 2016, Karen vanished. When she failed to return home, her parents reported missing and a search party was assembled. At the forefront of the search for Karen was her 15-year-old boyfriend, Jesus Campos Jr. After three days of unfruitful search, as Jesus and his father were driving around searching for Karen, Jesus calmly stated: “Just take me home because she is not alive…” His father drove him to Houston Police and asked him to admit to what he knew about Karen’s disappearance. Jesus, however, denied any knowledge of his girlfriend’s disappearance. He did mention that he had seen her the day before she vanished at a taqueria.2
Shortly thereafter, another teenager contacted Texas EquuSearch and said that the day Karen disappeared, he had been with Karen and Jesus at the taqueria along with two other teenagers. He said that after leaving the taqueria, they had gone to an abandoned apartment in the 1600 block of Avenue M, just across the road from South Houston High School. The teenager said that he and the other two teenagers had left to go back to school, leaving Karen and Jesus alone in the abandoned apartment.
After receiving the tip from the teenager, police embarked on the abandoned apartment. Inside, they discovered the lifeless body of Karen. She had been strangled and then stuffed into a cabinet underneath the sink. Police immediately zoned in on Jesus as a suspect in the murder of his girlfriend. They obtained a search warrant for his mobile phone and what they found would disturb even the most seasoned homicide detectives.
On Jesus’ mobile phone, they found images and a video recording of Karen being sexually assaulted and murdered by Jesus. In the video, Karen can be heard crying and begging Jesus not to sexually assault her and kill her: “I don’t want to, I told you I don’t want to,” she can be heard exclaiming. As Jesus begins to strangle Karen, she can be heard saying through gasping breaths: “I don’t want to die, Jesus.”
Investigators would also find text messages between Karen and Jesus in which he ordered her to skip school with him on the day that she disappeared and meet him at a nearby tennis court. When she said she couldn’t skip school, Jesus told her that he would kill her if she did not comply. Investigators would also discover that Jesus had taken photographs of Karen after he had killed her. One reply from one of the friends who received the photograph of Karen disturbingly read: “Bros before hoes.” There were at least two friends who knew that Jesus had killed Karen but failed to contact police.
CCTV footage would capture Jesus and Karen leaving the taqueria just moments before they went to the abandoned apartment where she would ultimately lose her life. Chillingly, they were walking hand in hand as they left the taqueria.3 An employee of the taqueria would identify Jesus as being there that afternoon with Karen and said that shortly after they all left, he returned on his own and asked to use the phone to ask his mother to come and pick him up.
Jesus would admit to the murder of Karen but failed to reveal a motivation. When asked if he had murdered Karen, he replied: “Yes, I did. That’s all I’m saying.”4
On the 6th of November, 2018, Jesus Campos Jr. was found guilty of the murder of Karen Perez and sentenced to life in prison. After the sentence was handed down, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Meriwether said in a statement: “I’ve tried several capital murder cases, but the recording of Karen being raped, and pleading for her life before she was so viciously murdered, will stay with me for the rest of my life…”5
- ABC – 24 KVUE, 31 May, 2016 – “Juvenile Arrested for 15-Year-Old Girl’s Death”
- CBS 11 KHOU, 7 November, 2018 – “Teen Convicted of Girlfriend’s Murder”
- Daily Star, 8 November, 2018 – “Sick Monster Who Filmed Himself Raping and Murdering Girlfriend Caged for Life”
- The Houston Chronicle, 1 June, 2016 – “Cell Phone Audio Captured Sexual Assault, Death of Missing Girl”
- Houston Chronicle, 7 November, 2018 – “Life Sentence for Houston Teenager Who Recorded Himself”