Hector Morales, Pennsylvania

 

Update: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 1:11 am EDT

Hector Manuel Morales was scheduled to be executed at 7 pm EDT, on Friday, August 28, 2015, at the State Correctional Institute Rockview in Rockview, Pennsylvania. His execution has been stayed Thirty-two-year-old Hector was convicted of the murder of 42-year-old Ronald Lee Simmons Jr., on July 16, 2009, inside of Ronald’s home in York, Pennsylvania. Hector has spent the last four years on Pennsylvania’s death row.

Hector's execution was stayed by the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The execution was stayed on August 12, 2015.

Hector would often used drugs and alcohol. As a child, Hector suffered a severe head injury when he was struck by a vehicle. According to his mother and sisters, Hector changed after receiving the injury. Hector’s brother was murdered in 2000, and his father had also served time on drug related charges.

Ronald Simmons had been arrested for purchasing heroine, when police asked him to become a confidential informant. Although Ronald was initially hesitant to accept, fearing for his life, he eventually did. Ronald agreed to help police capture his supplier, a man he knew only as “True.”

 

Ronald arranged for a drug deal, which led to the arrest of Hector Morales and another individuals. As Morales’ hearing approached, he informed a friend that he was going to kill “Country,” who had set him up. Ronald was known to others as “Country.” Morales’ hearing was scheduled of July 16, 2009, and Ronald was scheduled to testify against him.

 

On July 15, 2009, Morales and two friends, Melvin Miles and Ricky Newson drove to York, Pennsylvania. Morales’ two friends believed they were in the area to buy marijuana. Around 1:00 am, on July 16, 2009, the group parked the vehicle and Morales exited the vehicle. He returned and asked Melvin to accompany him. Morales told Melvin that he was going to kill the person inside the home if the person was the individual scheduled to testify against him. Melvin refused to help and returned to the vehicle. During his return, he heard five or six gunshots.

 

Unbeknownst to Morales, the actions of him and his friends were observed by Richard Portner, who was sitting on the back porch of his residence. Richard was able to describe the clothing each man wore who exited the vehicle and who returned when. Richard observed Morales running back to the vehicle shortly after hearing several gunshots.

 

Morales had entered the home of Ronald Simmons and shot him six times in front of his wife. Morales then quickly returned to the vehicle where his friends were waiting. They drove to a nearby convenience store for gasoline and cigarettes. Allegedly, on the way to the store, Morales said, “See what happens to witnesses.” Morales also was observed cleaning fingerprints off a gun and using the squeegee at the gas station to clean blood off his shoes. During the drive back to Lebanon, Morales told his friends that he had killed “Country” to prevent him from testifying. Once in Lebanon, Morales burned his clothing and told another friend about the killing.

 

Following the murder of Ronald, Morales decided to kill Ricky, fearing he would go to the police. Morales told Melvin that he had to kill Ricky. Instead, Melvin helped Ricky escape. Eventually the police questioned Melvin, who led police to the murder weapon and to Morales. Both Melvin and Ricky testified against Morales at his trial.

 

Hector Morales’ execution will likely be stayed. On Friday, February 13, 2015, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced a moratorium on executions in the state, until he receives and reviews a report on capital punishment in the state, a report which was ordered in 2011. In his announcement, he called the death penalty in Pennsylvania a "flawed system," "ineffective," "unjust," and "expensive." The governor will continue to issue stay of executions until all problems in the report are satisfactorily addressed. Read more about the announcement here.

 

Due to Governor’s Wolf’s decision, he has refused to sign any execution warrants. Hector’s notice of execution was issued by Department of Corrections Secretary John Wentzel, which is in accordance with state law. State law requires the corrections secretary to issue an execution notice if the governor does not sign a warrant within a specific time frame.

 

Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Ronald Simmons. Please pray for strength for the family of Hector. Please pray that if Hector is innocent or he lacks the mental competency to be executed, that evidence will be presented prior to his execution. Please pray that Hector will come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already found one.

 

 

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