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Katy Man Sentenced to 45 Years In Prison For Killing Former Classmate
Harris County District Attorney
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A Katy man was sentenced by a judge to 45 years in prison Friday for his role in the murder of a former high school classmate in 2019, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced.


“This was a premeditated murder that left a family questioning what happened to their loved one for more than a year,” Ogg said. “With help from the victim’s family, and great police work, we were able to get justice in this horrible case.”


Jose Varela, 24, was sentenced to 45 years in prison by state District Judge Kelli Johnson after Varela pleaded guilty to murder for killing 22-year-old Zuhyr Hamza Kaleem on April 27, 2019.


Varela and Kaleem had been classmates at Cypress Lakes High School and had agreed to meet at Varela’s home to make a marijuana deal. When Kaleem arrived, Varela and another man, Eric Aguilar, closed the garage door to make the deal. That was when Aguilar fatally shot Kaleem.


Varela and Aguilar took Kaleem’s body to Grimes County where his remains were burned. Varela then drove Kaleem’s car to Mexico and dumped it to avoid suspicion.


Kaleem’s family filed a missing person’s report and did everything they could to find their loved one. Using their expertise as software engineers, Kaleem’s brothers were able to identify Varela as the last person to have contact with Kaleem.


Detective Demetrius Lewis with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office continued to investigate resulting in the arrest of Varela, Aguilar, and a third man, whose case is still pending.


Aguilar was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in November.


Assistant District Attorney Tiffany Dupree, a Division Chief in the DA’s office, prosecuted the case with ADA Jason Sanchez, who is assigned to the DA’s Organized Crime section.


“These defendants thought they had gotten away with murder and had moved on with their lives, but they had not counted on the victim’s brothers and law enforcement relentlessly pursuing Kaleem’s whereabouts,” Dupree said. “This family went an entire year, pining away, praying for their loved one to come home only to find that his remains had been burned because of some marijuana and a couple of hundred bucks.”



Joan Gould

Communications Advisor

Harris County District Attorney’s Office

Cell: 713-705-2651




Varela Photo.jpg

Zuhyr Hamza Kaleem.jpg
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