The former Daly City man accused of helping a childhood friend kill a high school acquaintance a dozen years ago and leave the boy’s body in an apartment storage unit used as a hangout took to the stand yesterday to personally tell jurors he only helped hide the bloody evidence.
Reynaldo Maldonado, now a 34-year-old adult in a button-down shirt and close-cropped haircut, testified Erick Romeo Morales actually killed Quetzlcoatl Alba, 15, on May 21, 2001, at Westlake Apartments before calling him to the scene. Maldonado said the two were friends and then lovers back in Guatemala before each moving to the Bay Area and that lingering affection propelled him to cover up rather than reveal the truth to police.
Eight days after the murder, Maldonado called 911 because he “wanted to tell the truth” but changed his mind once officers responded to his pay phone call.
“Because I loved Erick very much and I couldn’t do that,” Maldonado testified through a Spanish-speaking interpreter.
Prosecutors contend Maldonado held Alba down while Morales stabbed him repeatedly in the neck, arms and torso. Both men were eyed as suspects but each left Daly City shortly after the murder. Maldonado went first to New York and then Florida. Daly City police found Maldonado in Miami on a tip from his friend, Mario Cajina, who testified the defendant confessed the killing and showed him a key piece of evidence in the trial — a photo taken of Morales standing over Alba’s body.
On the stand yesterday, Maldonado said he did tell Cajina about Alba’s murder but never admitted participating.
“I did tell him but not the way he said it,” Maldonado said.
The defense argued in opening statements that Cajina has a financial motivation and Maldonado testified that, while he shared the story sometime after his 2001 arrival in Miami, his 2007 arrest came two weeks after the man was kicked out of their shared housing.
According to Maldonado, he was making coffee at home alone on Miriam Street where he lived with Morales’ family and others when Morales called him on his own cellphone. Morales allegedly asked Maldonado to take a cab to the apartment storage unit where Westmoor High School students hung out and bring him a new sweater. Once there, Maldonado said Morales gave him a bloody sweatshirt, cellphone and what would turn out to be a knife bundled up. Maldonado told jurors he took the items home to hide at Morales’ order and used a glove to open the bloody package before burying all of it in a can in the backyard at night.
An excavation of the yard based on Cajina’s tip would turn up the items in 2007 when Daly City police reopened the case.
After Alba’s murder, Maldonado said Morales left Daly City two to three days later and he left three days after being interviewed by detectives. He did not see Morales again and told jurors, while he was “a little” afraid of him, he was more afraid of Morales’ father with whom he still lived.
“He said to me I don’t know what you know or what you saw but if anything happens to my son you’re going to pay for it,” Maldonado said.
In 2009, two years after Maldonado’s arrest, Morales was apprehended after an East Coast traffic stop revealed his identity.
He and Maldonado are being tried separately and both face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
Both Maldonado and Morales remain in custody without bail.
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