A man found guilty of murdering a high school classmate in 2001 when he was 19 was sentenced to life without possibility of parole in a Redwood City courtroom today.
Erick Morales, now 32, stabbed Quetzacoatl Alba, 15, to death in a storage room of a Daly City apartment complex on Park Plaza Drive on May 21, 2001, while another man, Reynaldo Maldonado, now 34, stood by, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
Maldonado was found guilty of first-degree murder in November and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for his role in the death of Alba, Morales’ classmate at Westmoor High School.
A jury convicted Morales of first-degree murder in February with the special circumstance of lying in wait, thus triggering a mandatory sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.
According to Morales’ defense attorney Tom Kelley, Morales and Maldonado had a destructive relationship that dated back to their native Guatemala, where they met each other as teens.
Maldonado began to sexually abuse Morales and then followed him to Daly City when his family moved there, Kelley said. The two men eventually moved together into a house in the 200 block of Miriam Street in Daly City, Kelley said.
Maldonado regularly threatened Morales and his family and told them he was associated with a gang in Guatemala, Kelley said.
Maldonado told Morales he had to kill someone or his family would be in danger, Kelley said.
On the day of the murder, Morales lured Alba to the storage room, where he stabbed him repeatedly in his hands, throat, legs and torso, according to San Mateo Deputy District Attorney Jeff Finigan. Maldonado took a picture of Morales leaning over Alba’s bleeding body.
At trial, Morales’ defense said Maldonado was the one who actually stabbed Alba, but prosecutors claimed DNA evidence supported Morales as the killer.
Both men fled the scene after the murder and the case went unsolved until a tip in 2007 led investigators to dig in the backyard of the defendants’ former home on Park Plaza Drive.
Investigators found the victim’s cellphone, Morales’ bloodstained sweatshirt and a knife buried a foot underground, Finigan said.
Maldonado was traced to Miami, Fla., and brought back to San Mateo County to stand trial. When he arrived at SFO, he jumped off a 25-foot parking structure in an unsuccessful attempt to flee and suffered serious head trauma.
Morales wasn’t located until 2009, when he was picked up for a DUI in New York state.
Morales apologized before the court today. Judge Mark Forcum handed down the mandatory sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole due to the special “lying in wait” circumstance found by the jury.
Alba’s mother, Kristen Sanchez, spoke at both men’s sentencing hearings. She said their senseless crime had destroyed lives.
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