Man gets life term for 1999 home-invasion murder

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. — A Lancaster man who shot a Chula Vista resident to death during a botched home-invasion robbery nearly 16 years ago was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus an additional 25 years to life.

Joe Mora, 35, was convicted in July of first-degree murder, and jurors found true special circumstance allegations of murder during an attempted home- invasion robbery and murder during an attempted residential burglary in the Nov. 28, 1999, killing of Sergio Morales.

Deputy District Attorney Andrea Freshwater told jurors that Mora talked to his girlfriend, Alicia Ayala, in 2012 after being questioned by Chula Vista police detectives.

Freshwater said the defendant came home upset because detectives told him that a beanie found at the crime scene had his DNA on it.

The prosecutor quoted Mora as telling Ayala that it “was a home- invasion robbery that went wrong. I didn’t want to do it, but he kept coming at me.”

Ayala called authorities nine months later and told them what Mora had told her, and he was arrested in September 2013.

DNA evidence also linked the suspect to the crime, according to the prosecution.

Authorities said that on the evening of Nov. 28, 1999, Mora and a female companion showed up at the victim’s Paseo Burga residence and tried in vain to talk their way inside. When Morales attempted to shut the front door, a struggle ensued and the 54-year-old victim was beaten and fatally shot, police said.

Deputy Public Defender Juliana Humphrey had urged jurors to question the credibility of Ayala and two other women in Mora’s past and said DNA found on the beanie was a mixture from a number of people.