HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- One of two teenagers, who claim to be MS-13 gang members, was in CPS care at the time investigators say they brutally murdered a west side mother.
CPS confirms to ABC13 that 17-year-old Carlos Romero-Munoz was in their system when the 45-year-old mother was shot to death in the trunk of her car. A CPS spokesperson said Romero was in the kinship care program.
He and 18-year-old Jordan Montalvo are in jail charged with the capital murder of Sandra Montes-DeEscamilla on Aug. 10.
According to the CPS website, kinship care provides love and care in a familiar setting; continues lifelong family traditions and memories; and creates a sense of stability in the life of a child.
Bob Sanborn, president and CEO of Children at Risk, a child advocacy organization, said kinship care is a good alternative to foster care.
"The idea of kinship care is going to someone like your grandma, your uncle, someone else in the family to take care of you," Sanborn said. "Overall, you're not supposed to have these things. Capital crime should not be happening with these kids."
Romero was arrested at his grandmother's house on Loma Vista on the southwest side on Tuesday, two weeks after Harris County Sheriff's Office investigators believe he, Montalvo and a third suspect, Selvyn Sandoval, kidnapped Montes as she arrived home at her apartment on Highway 6 and forced her to drive to a nearby apartment complex, where they put her in the trunk of her car and shot her to death. Investigators say Romero and Montalvo, self-professed MS-13 gang members, then turned their guns on Sandoval and shot him. He survived and is in custody on an unrelated charge.
On June 25, Houston police believe Montalvo and Romero randomly targeted 58-year-old Patrik Maldonado on Woodridge in southeast Houston, chased him down and killed him. Surveillance video captured the victim's efforts to get away before he was gunned down.
CPS would not say how long Romero has been in their care or why he is not living with his parents. Under the kinship care program, a child is visited by his case worker and a program representative once a month.
Sanborn supports the kinship care program and believes Romero's situation is rare.
"Kinship care is a good thing, but there's nothing good about what happened with this young man," Sanborn said.
Romero and Montalvo remain in jail on a $1 million bonds.