“He said that ever since that attack and subsequent surgeries he was struggling with demons in his head,” Saggese told The Associated Press.
Morales, whose nickname was “Willie,’’ lived in various areas of Miami and Hialeah, and, according to his rap sheet, worked as a roofer. He also had a strange obsession with exotic birds and wildlife. In 1996, he took to stealing them from Miami pet stores and homeowners.
He once was caught hiding in a kitchen cabinet in a house while attempting to steal a macaw and a cockatoo named Peaches. He was nabbed by police, but not before he shot the owners’ dogs to keep them quiet.
Over the next few years, he would be arrested nearly two dozen times on charges ranging from resisting arrest with violence to sexual battery. In 2003, Morales was on the run from Miami authorities in connection with the rapes of two women in Little Havana. He fled to Nevada, where he sexually assaulted a woman in an apartment near the Las Vegas Strip that same year.
While in a jail medical ward, Morales mutilated his genitals and scrawled words in blood on the wall, Saggese said. He underwent a psychological examination by doctors at a Nevada state mental hospital but was found competent to stand trial, the attorney said.
Morales pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 30 years to life and sent to High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs, Nevada.
He was about five years into his sentence when he was extradited back to Miami to face charges in the 2003 Little Havana rapes. He spent four years in the Miami-Dade County Jail before he was convicted and sentenced to another 10 years, to be served if and when he was paroled in Nevada. Plans were then made to return him to Indian Springs to serve out his 30-years-to-life sentence.
While incarcerated in Florida, however, he became schooled with weapons and how to escape from restraints.
“We do have information that he devoted considerable time while in prison practicing how to get out of handcuffs and fashioning edged weapons out of whatever he could find,’’ said Sam Shemwell, Grapevine crime prevention officer.
Plan B goes bad
Two Miami-Dade police detectives, Jaime Pardiñas and David Carrero, were assigned to transport Morales by commercial flight. The plane had barely taken off when he became unruly and began to bang his head on other passengers’ seats. When the plane made a scheduled stop in Houston, Morales was kicked off, authorities said.
At that point, the detectives launched “Plan B,” which was to transport him the remaining 1,200 miles to Las Vegas in a rental vehicle. With Morales in handcuffs attached to a belly belt, they loaded the slight, five-foot-seven convict into the SUV, and headed north to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where a third Miami-Dade police detective was flying in to assist with Morales during the long road trip.
Pardiñas and Carrero arrived three hours ahead of their colleague, so they decided to make some stops, picking up food and using a restroom. About 11 p.m., they visited a Walmart near the airport. Carrero entered the store, leaving Pardiñas to guard Morales, police said.
Morales lunged at Pardiñas and stabbed him several times in the neck with the sharp end of his broken eyeglass frame. Pardiñas, reeling in pain, called 911, his breathing labored as he told dispatchers that Morales had fled. The store’s surveillance cameras captured Morales sprinting across the store parking lot.