An Oakland man was convicted of second-degree murder today for the death of his ex-girlfriend more than seven years ago, even though her body was never been found. An Alameda County Superior Court jury deliberated for two and a half days before announcing its verdict against 55-year-old Eric Mora for the presumed death of Cynthia Linda Alonzo, who was 48 when she disappeared in November 2004.
Mora, who looked straight ahead and showed no emotion when the verdict was announced, faces a state prison term of 15 years to life in prison when he’s sentenced by Judge Vernon Nakahara on May 25. Prosecutor Danielle Jordan said she’s “thrilled” by the verdict and is glad that “the family has finally gotten justice after seven years.” But Mora’s lawyer, Colin Cooper, said, “I’m incredibly disappointed and shocked that the jury convicted him based on the witnesses that were presented over the past six weeks. I’m disappointed that they didn’t have any doubt.”
In his closing argument last week, Cooper said the prosecution’s witnesses, including Alonzo’s family members, Oakland police officers and a jailhouse informant, “weren’t credible and weren’t believable.” He said they were “proven liars” and had “a motive to lie.” London admitted in her closing argument that Alonzo’s body has never been found and she doesn’t know how Alonzo was killed. But she said circumstantial evidence, such as Alonzo’s blood being found in Mora’s house, ties Mora to her death. “We don’t know it all but we know enough,” London told jurors. After the verdict today, London said, “The jury believed that he killed her” and that was enough for them to convict Mora.
London asked jurors to convict Mora of either first- or second-degree murder. She said she understands why jurors didn’t find the elements of premeditation and deliberation that are needed for a first-degree murder conviction. 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.
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. Mora’s case was delayed by a number of factors, including that he hired and fired many lawyers and he underwent two preliminary hearings because a judge ruled that in his first hearing he hadn’t clearly waived his right to have that hearing held in one continuous session. His case bears some similarities 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.
Hans Reiser ultimately was convicted of first-degree murder for her death and later led authorities to the location in the Oakland hills where he had buried her body. Prosecutors agreed to reduce his conviction to second-degree murder in return. London said she wouldn’t want to reduce Mora’s conviction if he discloses where Alonzo is buried. She noted that Reiser still faces a life term for second-degree murder but Mora, who has already been in custody for five years, would only face a maximum of 11 years if his conviction were to be reduced to voluntary manslaughter.
Alonzo’s daughter, Terresa Jones, 35, said the family wants to know where Alonzo is buried “so we can give her a proper burial.” But Jones also said, “We don’t want him to get a lighter sentence.” She said she thinks Mora “has been holding out” on disclosing where Alonzo’s body is as “collateral” for a possible plea bargain with prosecutors. “Maybe he’ll cough up the body now,” Jones said. Alonzo had five children and three of them, including Jones, were present for the verdict today. Alonzo’s brother also was present. “We’re happy that it’s over and justice has finally been served,” Jones said.
Mora didn’t testify during his trial but he took the witness stand in his first preliminary hearing in 2007 and 2008, saying that he didn’t have anything to do with Alonzo’s disappearance and he thought she might still be alive. Several of Mora’s family members, including his daughters, were present for the verdict today but they left court without commenting. One of his daughters crossed herself and prayed before the verdict was announced.
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