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A prosecutor told jurors today that a 55-year-old Oakland man should be convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend more than seven years ago, even though her body has never been found. In her opening statement in the trial of Eric Mora, prosecutor Danielle London admitted that she doesn’t know how he killed Cynthia Linda Alonzo, who was 48 when she disappeared in November 2004, or where he disposed of her body. But London alleged that circumstantial evidence, including DNA, ties Mora to Alonzo’s death and told jurors she will prove that Alonzo is dead, that Mora killed her and the killing was a murder.
“People don’t just disappear into thin air for no reason,” London said. Prosecutors filed murder charges against Mora in February 2007 because Oakland police said Alonzo’s blood was recovered from the room where she stayed with him at his home at 6201 Brookside Ave. in the Oakland hills and he had multiple scratches on his hands after she disappeared. Alonzo’s family members reported her missing when she failed to show up for Thanksgiving dinner at her mother’s house in San Francisco on Nov. 25, 2004. There’s been no trace of her ever since, London said. The prosecutor said, “The fact that a killer may successfully dispose of his victim doesn’t entitle him to an acquittal. This is one form of success for which society has no reward.”
But Mora’s lawyer, Colin Cooper, said Mora “did not have anything to do whatsoever with the disappearance of Cynthia Alonzo” and alleged that the prosecution’s case against him is “based on assumptions, conjectures and speculation.” Cooper said, “The prosecution has no body, no fingerprints, no murder weapon, no motive, no cause of death and no direct or credible evidence.” He said, “An innocent man is being falsely accused of the most heinous, serious crime imaginable” and said Mora “did not, could not and would not have killed her.” Cooper said that at the end of the trial he will ask jurors to find that Mora is not guilty. Mora’s case bears some resemblances to that of Oakland computer programmer Hans Reiser, who was prosecuted in a lengthy trial in 2007 and 2008 on charges that he murdered his wife, Nina Reiser, who disappeared on Sept. 3, 2006, even though her body hadn’t been found.
Reiser ultimately was convicted of murder for her death and later led authorities to the location in the Oakland hills where he had buried her body. Aside from the fact that both men were prosecuted even though the bodies of their alleged victims hadn’t been found, at one point Oakland defense lawyer William DuBois represented both men and Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman presided over both cases. On July 30, 2008, at the end of a preliminary hearing that started on Sept. 10, 2007, and met intermittently during and after Reiser’s trial, Goodman ruled that there was sufficient evidence for Mora to stand trial on charges that he murdered Alonzo.
But another judge dismissed the original case in September 2009, ruling that Mora hadn’t clearly waived his right to have his preliminary hearing held in one continuous session. Prosecutors immediately filed new charges against Mora and on May 13, 2010, at the end of a second preliminary hearing another judge also ruled that there was enough evidence for Mora to stand trial. Mora had already replaced DuBois by that point and went through two more defense lawyers before finally deciding last fall to have Cooper represent him. A significant difference in the two murder cases is that Reiser’s case received intense coverage in the news media locally and even nationally but Mora’s case has received relatively little media attention. The difference could be due to Nina Reiser being portrayed as an innocent mother of two young children whereas Alonzo has been depicted in court as a drug user who traded sex for money. London said Mora and Alonzo came from different circumstances,
with Mora growing up “privileged” and inheriting homes in the Oakland hills from his mother and Alonzo growing up “on the other side of the tracks” in Oakland and relying on public assistance. Mora testified during his first preliminary hearing that his relationship with Alonzo was primarily sexual in nature and began when he paid her $10 to perform oral sex on him after they were introduced by a mutual friend in December 2003. He also testified that he was troubled by the behavior of Alonzo and some of her family members, alleging that she used drugs heavily and turned tricks and her family members had a propensity for getting into fights and other dangerous situations.
Mora said at the hearing that he didn’t have anything to do with Alonzo’s disappearance and he thought she might still be alive. London told jurors today that a former fellow jail inmate will testify that Mora admitted to him that he killed Alonzo. But Cooper said the informant’s testimony shouldn’t be believed, alleging that “snitches will lie about anything if they think they will benefit.” Cooper said Mora “was loving, kind and helpful to Cynthia and her family and cared for her and tried to get her off drugs.” Testimony in Mora’s trial will begin Wednesday morning.
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