Six years after Erick Morales was formally charged with fatally stabbing a teen acquaintance in 2001, the former Daly City man began trial on the murder and weapons charges that could send him to prison for life.
The trial in the May 21, 2001, death of 15-year-old Quetzlcoatl Alba also comes less than two months after a jury convicted his former childhood friend and lover in the same crime. Reynaldo Maldonado, 34, will receive life in prison for the murder — the same sentence Morales, 32, faces although he may not have the option of parole.
While Maldonado claimed during trial he only helped clean up the crime scene, he also took a photo of Morales standing over Alba’s body.
Although officially underway, the trial is off to a walking start with motions due by the end of next week and opening statements not scheduled until Jan. 27. The slow progress is in line with the entire case’s history which began with the discovery of Alba’s body in storage unit turned teen hangout at the Westlake Apartments, then stalling for years while both suspects went on the lam and the unexpected restart in 2007 when Maldonado was turned in by a friend in Florida. In 2009, two years after Maldonado’s arrest, Morales was apprehended after an East Coast traffic stop revealed his identity.
The prosecution has been mum on a specific motive for Morales killing Alba, citing the pending trial, but during Maldonado’s trial told jurors that the latter held the teen down while the former stabbed him repeatedly in the neck, arms and torso. Maldonado testified on his own behalf that Morales killed Alba and then called him to help hide the weapon and other evidence.
Both men were eyed as suspects but each left Daly City shortly after the murder.
Maldonado testified that he helped Morales because the two had been friends and lovers in Guatemala before each moved to the Bay Area. He also said that Morales’ father frightened him.
Jurors deliberated three days before convicting Maldonado of murder but rejected the special allegation of lying in wait that would have negated the possibility of parole.
Maldonado and Morales are both in custody without bail. Maldonado will be sentenced Jan. 31.
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