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Northampton man pleads not guilty to murder of Daniel Cruz

  • Nerkin Omar Morales, 22 of Northampton, during his arraignment in Hampshire Superior Court Wednesday morning, Dec. 5, 2018. Morales pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder in the killing of Daniel Cruz, 44, in March. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Nerkin Omar Morales, 22, of Northampton, looks back and blows a kiss to his family during his arraignment in Hampshire Superior Court Wednesday morning, Dec. 5, 2018. Morales pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder in the killing of Daniel Cruz, 44, in March. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Nerkin Omar Morales, 22, of Northampton, during his arraignment in Hampshire Superior Court Wednesday morning, Dec. 5, 2018. Morales pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder in the killing of Daniel Cruz, 44, in March. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Nerkin Omar Morales, 22 of Northampton, during his arraignment in Hampshire Superior Court Wednesday morning, Dec. 5, 2018. Morales pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder in the killing of Daniel Cruz, 44, in March. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Nerkin Omar Morales, 22, of Northampton, appears Wednesday in Hampshire Superior Court. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS



Staff Writer
Thursday, December 06, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — The man accused of shooting Daniel Cruz in March was arraigned Wednesday morning on a host of charges, including murder.

In addition to murder, Nerkin Omar Morales was arraigned in Hampshire Superior Court on charges of burning personal property, withholding evidence from criminal proceedings, 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.

Morales is the only person indicted in the case who has been charged with murder.

Morales was arraigned before Judge Richard Carey; the prosecutor present was Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Suhl.

Morales said only two words aloud during his arraignment, when Carey asked him for his plea.

“Not guilty,” he said.

Morales, 22, of Northampton, was represented by his court-appointed attorney, David Hodge. Morales was ordered held without bail, and a pre-trial hearing is scheduled for June 12. He also was ordered to have no contact with his co-defendants, alleged co-conspirators, witnesses in the case, and Cruz’s family.

According to prosecutors, Pedro J. Soto-Rodriguez, 21, got into a confrontation with Cruz, 44, of Northampton, on March 10 at the Meadowbrook Apartments in Northampton. Prosecutors allege that Morales then intervened with a firearm, shooting Cruz three times and killing him. Soto-Rodriguez and Morales then enlisted other parties in helping them to cover up the crime, prosecutors allege, taking Cruz’s body that evening to a field in Hatfield, where it was set aflame.

Soto-Rodriguez is set to be arraigned in Hampshire Superior Court on Dec. 14 at 9 a.m. on charges that include accessory after the fact to murder. Three other defendants were arraigned on similar charges in connection with the case last week. Two of the people indicted in the case, Alondra E. Gil, 23, of Northampton, and Chelsea T. Rodriguez, 22, of Northampton, are still at large and being sought by the police.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.