27-year-old who killed man he owed money to in Huffman area sentenced to 45 years

Leonardo Abarca (Harris County District Attorney's Office)

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – A 27-year-old man who killed another man he owed money to in 2016 has been sentenced to 45 years in prison, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Saturday.

Leonardo Abarca, 27, was sentenced by a jury after an eight-day trial in which he was convicted of murder for killing 25-year-old Mustafa Ahmed Marfani, of Humble, on April 7, 2016.

“Gun crime in our community is rampant because of cases like this, in which a relatively minor disagreement led to a cold-blooded murder,” Ogg said. “The victim’s family lost a son and a much-loved family member, and our hearts ache for them.”

According to the district attorney’s office, Abarca met with Marfani about noon in the parking lot of the Huffman Mason Lodge in the 2300 block of Third Street. Abarca owed Marfani between $1,800 and $2,200 dollars. Instead of paying his debt, Abarca killed Marfani.

Two witnesses who were driving toward the parking lot at the time saw a large white truck screeching out of the lot. The couple then saw Marfani’s vehicle and found him dead in the car. He had been shot in the head.

Those witnesses called 911. The police put out an alert about the white truck. The next day, a deputy with the Precinct 3 Constable’s Office pulled over the vehicle and spoke with Abarca, who said he was the only one who had been driving his truck. He agreed to talk to detectives with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

During the interview, Abarca admitted to meeting with Marfani because of the money. Abarca then broke down, telling investigators that his life was over and that he was going to jail for a long time. He was then charged with murder. Video surveillance of the area showed Abarca’s truck before and after the murder.

Abarca was freed on bail. In early 2017, he jumped bail and fled to Mexico. He remained there for almost a year until an anonymous tip helped the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force locate him and bring him back to Harris County.

Assistant District Attorney Bryan Honeycutt, a chief prosecutor in the DA’s trial bureau, handled the case with ADA Rehaman Merchant.

Honeycutt said this was a case in which two citizens stepped up to help authorities, including testifying at trial, and good police work ensured a just result.

“The sheriff’s office investigators gathered up cellphone records, cellular tower data, DNA, fingerprints and firearms-ballistics evidence,” Honeycutt said. “Almost anything that you might see on a ‘CSI’ show on TV was used in this case, all of which helped to reassure the jury that this was the guy who did it.”

About the Author:

Christian Terry covered digital news in Tyler and Wichita Falls before returning to the Houston area where he grew up. He is passionate about weather and the outdoors and often spends his days off on the water fishing.