RIVERSIDE (CNS) – A convicted felon and two other individuals accused
of killing a 27-year-old Perris man on Christmas Eve pleaded not guilty today
to murder and other charges.

Miguel Angel Villegas, 30, Andrik Avalos Villasenor, 21, and Kassandra
Lepe, 21 — all of Hemet — were arrested in December following a Riverside
County Sheriff’s Department investigation into the slaying of Rafael Morales in

Along with murder, Villegas and Villasenor are charged with robbery
and burglary. Villegas is additionally charged with firearm assault and
sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations. Lepe is
additionally charged with receiving stolen property.

The trio were arraigned together Monday before Superior Court Judge
Gail O’Rane, who scheduled a felony settlement conference for Sept. 12 at the
Riverside Hall of Justice.

Lepe and Villasenor are each being held in lieu of $1 million bail —
her at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning, him at the Robert Presley
Jail in Riverside. Villegas is being held without bail at the downtown jail.

According to sheriff’s Sgt. Ed Baeza, about 11 p.m. on Dec. 24, the
trio were involved in an unspecified confrontation with Morales at a residence
in the 300 block of West Seventh Street, near Perris Boulevard.

During the encounter, the victim was shot at least once in the upper
body, Baeza said.

Witnesses called 911, and deputies and paramedics converged on the
location within minutes, pronouncing Morales dead at the scene.

Baeza said Central Homicide Unit detectives quickly identified
Villegas and Villasenor as two of the alleged assailants. Both were tracked to
separate locations the following day and taken into custody without incident.

Lepe was identified later and arrested on East Florida Avenue in Hemet.

Neither she nor Villasenor has documented prior felony convictions in
Riverside County. However, Villegas has priors for assault resulting in great
bodily injury, auto theft, driving under the influence of drugs and statutory
rape, according to court records. Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.