A Northampton man has admitted to killing an acquaintance and trying to hide the crime with fire.
Nerkin Morales, 24, of Northampton, pleaded guilty on Tuesday, Sept. 15, to voluntary manslaughter, improper disposition of a body, burning personal property, intimidation of a witness, withholding evidence from a criminal proceeding, two counts of conspiracy, and unlawful possession of a firearm, according to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office.
Morales confessed to the March 2018 killing of Daniel Cruz.
He was sentenced to 15-20 years in prison, the DA said. Morales is currently serving a 3-year sentence on drug dealing charges.
In 2018, Morales shot Cruz three times inside a Bridge Road apartment building in Northampton immediately after a physical altercation between Cruz and one of Morales’ friends, the DA said. Cruz had slashed the friend, Pedro Soto-Rodriguez, with a knife.
After Cruz was dead, Morales and several other people spent the next 12 hours trying to conceal the crime, the DA said.
To hide the killing, Morales and his associates cleaned the crime scene, disposed of key evidence including the firearm used to kill Cruz, and ultimately burned Cruz’s body in a vacant Hatfield field.
Cruz’s body was discovered on fire by law enforcement authorities after people called 911 to report the flames.
Nine people were indicted for charges related to Cruz’s death, but Morales was the only one charged with killing.
“The defendant’s guilty plea today and sentence from the court brings us one step closer to ensuring full accountability from all of the individuals involved in Mr. Cruz’s killing and the concealment of that crime,” said Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Suhl. “Our focus will now turn to the cases of the remaining co-defendants whose matters are still pending in court.”
Soto-Rodriguez had previously pled guilty to charges associated with the killing.
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