Elusive murder suspect pleads guilty to 2001 killing

December 3, 2009 6:40:34 PM PST
A man arrested in October after being sought by authorities for eight years in connection with the fatal stabbing of a Daly City high school student pleaded not guilty to murder charges in San Mateo County Superior Court today.

Erick Morales, 28, one of two men accused in the murder of 15-year-old Quetzalcoatl Alba on May 21, 2001, is charged with first-degree murder with the special circumstance of lying in wait.

He appeared briefly in court today and was ordered to remain in custody without bail.

Morales was arrested Oct. 12 after being pulled over in Long Island, N.Y., on suspicion of driving under the influence, Daly City police Lt. Jay Morena said.

He allegedly gave authorities a false name after he was pulled over and it wasn't until his fingerprints were checked that police realized he was wanted for Alba's murder.

Morales was extradited back to California later that month.

His defense attorney Tom Kelley said outside the courtroom today that his client did not murder Alba.

"This is a confusing case," Kelley said. "There's real dispute about who did the killing. The evidence will show that Erick Morales did not do the killing."

Alba's body was found in a storage room in the carport area of the Westlake Apartments. He had been stabbed to death.

Daly City detectives learned Morales, then 19, and his roommate Reynaldo Maldanado, then 22, were the last people seen with Alba, but both denied any involvement in the murder, Morena said.

Both Morales, who was a classmate of Alba's, and Maldanado fled the area after their last interview with police.

More than six years later, on Oct. 11, 2007, Daly City detectives secured a search warrant for the former home of Morales and Maldanado.

The alleged murder weapon and other physical evidence was found in the backyard, according to Morena.

Detectives then tracked Maldanado, now 30, to Miami, where he had been hiding under an assumed identity, and arrested him Oct. 15, 2007, Morena said.

He was extradited back to California and has been in custody without bail since. His trial began earlier this year but has been continued while the district attorney's office decides whether to try the two men together.

A preliminary hearing date was set for Feb. 11.


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