Hat Leads to Arrest in 1999 Murder - NBC Southern California

Hat Leads to Arrest in 1999 Murder

A hat left at a crime scene led police to an arrest in a 14-year-old murder case.



    When homicide investigators re-examined a 14-year-old cold case, a hat found at the murder scene led them to the man accused of the crime.

    Chula Vista resident Sergio Morales, 54, was beaten and shot several times during a home invasion on Nov. 28, 1999.

    Morales' wife told investigators that a woman knocked on the door at their home on Paseo Burga and then a man tried to force his way inside.

    When Morales tried to prevent entry, he was beaten and shot several times officials said.

    Monday in a San Diego County courtroom, prosecutors described how the shooter left Morales dead on the porch, and left something else behind as well.

    Investigators pulled DNA from a knit cap found at the scene. In 2009, investigators matched the DNA to that of Joe Mora, 32, of Lancaster.

    It was a break that led investigators to interview Mora's former girlfriend.

    In the warrant, investigators say that girlfriend told them the couple was watching a forensics TV show in 2005 when Mora allegedly asked her, "How long does it take before DNA catches up with you?"

    The girlfriend told investigators that she asked Mora if he'd ever killed anyone at which point he allegedly "became very irate, choked her."

    On Thursday, investigators obtained an arrest warrant and, with the help of U.S. Marshals, they took Mora into custody in Winnetka, Calif.

    On Monday, Mora faced a judge in San Diego and pleaded not guilty to a murder charge. The judge ordered the media to disguise Mora's appearance.

    The arrest warrant also showed that after police first interviewed him, Mora allegedly told his girlfriend the interview was about a home invasion robbery gone wrong.

    However investigators say they never mentioned a home invasion robbery during the interview.

    Further, prosecutors say before being arrested last week, they believe Mora was liquidating his assets and getting ready to run.

    Mora, who was held on $1 million bail, faces 25 years to life if he is convicted.

    Police are still looking for the woman they believe initially knocked on the victim's door that night. If you have any information regarding this case, contact Lieutenant Turner at (619) 585-5670.