REDWOOD CITY (CBS SF) – A trial began in Redwood City Tuesday morning for a man accused of participating in the stabbing murder of a 15-year-old boy in Daly City in 2001.
During his opening statement, San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney Jeff Finigan showed a photograph of Erick Morales—then 19 years old—crouching over the bleeding body of Quetzalcoatl Alba on May 21, 2001.
Morales, now 32, is accused of stabbing Alba multiple times in the storage room “hangout” he shared with his friends in an apartment complex on Park Plaza Drive.
The man who took the picture was Morales’ former lover, 34-year-old Reynaldo Maldonado, whose partial reflection was visible in the photograph in a full-length mirror close to Alba’s body.
In November 2013, a jury convicted Maldonado of first-degree murder for participating in the killing and holding Alba while Morales stabbed him.
The two defendants met each other as teens in their native Guatemala, where Maldonado allegedly began a sexually abusive relationship with the younger Morales, according to defense attorney Tom Kelley.
When Morales immigrated to Daly City to live with his parents, Maldonado followed, and their sexual relationship continued. The two eventually moved into a house together in the 200 block of Miriam Street, Kelly said.
During this time, Maldonado continued a pattern of harassment and threats against Morales and his family that had started in Guatemala, Kelly said.
Maldonado claimed association with a criminal gang in Guatemala City, and he used his alleged connection in order to control Morales and get him to do what he wanted, Kelly said.
Maldonado told Morales that he had to kill someone or his family would be in danger, Kelly said.
On the day of the murder, Morales allegedly lured Alba—his classmate at Westmoor High School—into the storage room where he was stabbed repeatedly on his hands, his throat, his legs and in his torso, Finigan said.
Prosecutors claim DNA evidence supports the charge that Morales killed Alba, and Maldonado took the photograph to keep as proof should he ever be questioned.
According to the defense, Morales shrank from the crime at the last minute and Maldonado was the one who ultimately stabbed Alba. Maldonado told Morales to pose over the body to trick the supposed criminal gang into thinking that Morales had carried out the killing, Kelly said.
Both men fled Daly City within a month of the murder, which went unsolved for more than six years.
In 2007, a tip led investigators to the backyard of the defendants’ former home on Park Plaza Drive, where a knife, Morales’ bloodstained sweatshirt and the victim’s cellphone were found buried a foot underground, Finigan said.
Maldonado was traced to Miami, Fla. and was brought back to San Mateo County to stand trial.
The photograph of Morales and Alba’s body was found hidden behind the felt cover of an album, Finigan said.
While in transit at San Francisco International Airport, a handcuffed Maldonado jumped from a 25-foot parking structure in an attempt to flee. He suffered serious head trauma and was immediately taken back into custody.
Morales was not located until October 2009, when he was arrested for DUI in New York state.
After giving state troopers a false name, a routine fingerprint check revealed that he was wanted for murder in Daly City.
Morales has been charged with first-degree murder with the added enhancement of lying in wait for his victim.
He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
Maldonado was scheduled to be sentenced on Friday.