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Irving Weekly Title

Ellis County, Texas News

Woman Sentenced to 40 Years for 2012 Murder of Ellis County Teen

Jennifer Samantha Puente

Ellis County and District Attorney Ann Montgomery announced today that Jennifer Samantha Puente, a long-time fugitive originally from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, has pled guilty to charges of Murder and Tampering/Fabricating Physical Evidence with Intent to Impair a Human Corpse, relating to crimes committed in 2012. Puente, aged 30 at the time of her plea, has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for the murder and an additional 15 years for tampering with evidence. She 18-years of age when the murder took place.

The case dates back to March 17, 2012, when the charred remains of 15-year-old Moriah Gonzales were discovered along a roadside in Ennis, Texas. Following an extensive investigation by the Ennis Police Department, Puente was identified as a suspect along with Joe Alvarado. Alvarado was later convicted in 2014 and is currently serving a 34 year sentence for his role in Gonzales' death.

Puente fled Ellis County after the crime and remained at large until Mexican authorities located and arrested her in 2022. After a complex extradition process, Puente was returned to the United States and subsequently to Ellis County in early 2023. On July 2, 2024, she entered a guilty plea to both charges before Judge Cindy Ermatinger of the 443rd Judicial District Court, who handed down concurrent sentences of 40 years for murder and 15 years for tampering with evidence.

District Attorney Montgomery expressed appreciation for the collaborative efforts of law enforcement agencies, including the Texas Rangers, Ennis Police Department, and United States Department of Justice officials, in bringing Puente to justice. She commended the dedication of former and current prosecutors, investigators, and peace officers involved in the case, underscoring their commitment to achieving closure for Moriah Gonzales' family.

Chief Felony Prosecutor James Zaleta and Assistant County and District Attorney Sherry Roeder led the prosecution team, supported by Investigators Tood Woodruff and Dennis Morris. Detective Sergeant Paul Asby of the Ennis Police Department and Captain Jason Bobo of the Texas Rangers played pivotal roles in the investigation that ultimately led to Puente's conviction and sentencing.

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