NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WHDH/AP) — A Northampton man suspected of killing another man and then participating in a conspiracy to cover up the shooting and burn the victim’s body is being held without bail.
Nerkin Omar Morales, 22, appeared in Hampshire Superior Court on Wednesday, where he was ordered to have no contact with his co-defendants, the witnesses in the case and the family of the victim.
Authorities allege Morales shot 44-year-old Daniel Cruz three times during an argument at a Northampton apartment complex in March.
Morales and seven other people then participated in an elaborate plot to conceal the shooting by cleaning up blood, hiding the gun, disposing of the victim’s clothing, and then waiting until dark to take Cruz’s body to Hatfield where it was set on fire, according to prosecutors.
He faces multiple charges including murder, burning personal property, withholding evidence from criminal proceeding, two counts of conspiracy, improper disposition of a human body, intimidation of a witness, unlawful possession of a firearm as an armed career criminal, use of a firearm in a felony, and discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling.
On Nov. 26, a Hampshire Grand Jury issued a total of 51 indictments against Morales and the seven other people allegedly involved in Cruz’s murder, according to a spokesperson for the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office.
The court later issued warrants for the arrests of Morales, Pedro J. Soto-Rodriguez, 21, of Northampton, Mercedes N. Diaz-Wright, 22, of Northampton, Alondra E. Gil, 23, of Northampton, Chelsea T. Rodriguez, 22, of Northampton, Kimberly A. Perez, 26, of Springfield, and Matthew M. Ross, 24, of Northampton, all of whom were indicted on a charge of accessory after the fact to murder and other charges. A warrant was also issued for Joshua T. Ealy, 20, of Northampton, on a charge of perjury related to the grand jury investigation of the case.
Diaz-Wright, Perez and Ross were arraigned in the Hampshire Superior Court on Nov. 27.
Soto-Rodriguez is scheduled to be arraigned in the Hampshire Superior Court on Dec. 14.
An arraignment date for Ealy, who is in custody, has not yet been scheduled.
The DA’s office says Gil and Rodriguez remain at large.
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