Judge denies motion to dismiss charges against St. Croix man on trial for murder

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ST. CROIX - V.I. Superior Court Judge Harold Willocks denied a motion Thursday afternoon seeking that murder and related charges against Jomar Encarnacion be dismissed on the basis that prosecutors had not proven their case against him in the March 2010 robbery and murder of 22-year-old Misael Morales.

Encarnacion is charged with first-degree murder; felony murder; first-degree robbery; reckless endangerment; and unauthorized use of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence.

He is accused of shooting Morales in the back of the head as they walked in Castle Coakley with a third man - Chayanne Trinidad, who testified for the prosecution on Wednesday.

Defense Attorney Charles Lockwood made his routine Rule 29 motions to the court Thursday, following the completion of the prosecution's case-in-chief.

In his oral motion, Lockwood asked the court to review the evidence and testimony in the case and note that no physical evidence was presented against his client, and the only testimony that connected him to the murder was testimony from Trinidad. Lockwood argued that Trinidad's testimony was only an effort to save himself from similar charges and that Trinidad already had been convicted of lying to police in connection to the case.

Willocks listened to the arguments from Lockwood and opposition from the prosecution before he denied the motion. The judge then allowed the defense to prepare to present its case and call its witnesses.

Following lunch, Lockwood called Encarnacion's grandmother to the stand to testify that her grandson had been at home into the evening, but that when Trinidad and Morales had come back to the house looking for Encarnacion, she told them that he was not there, because he had left with a relative to go to the car races.

Lockwood also called his investigator, Dennis Sheraw, who outlined the areas of interest in the case to the jurors with the use of photographs.

When the trial resumes today, Lockwood is expected to call additional witnesses.

Before the prosecution rested its case Thursday morning, Assistant Attorney General Andrette Watson called V.I. Police Lt. Dino Herbert to the stand to give his testimony as the case agent.

Herbert testified that during the course of the investigation, police were able to speak with Trinidad on several occasion and that he initially lied to them.

The first time, Trinidad said he and Morales went their separate ways after hanging out at El Sol Bar for a few hours.

Herbert said Trinidad later told police that he was ready to tell the truth and said Encarnacion picked Morales and Trinidad up in Encarnacion's uncle's pickup, and the three of them went to Castle Coakley.

Herbert testified that Trinidad told investigators that, as the three were walking, Encarnacion told him he was going to kill Morales but that Trinidad did not believe him until Encarnacion pulled out a .38-caliber handgun and shot Morales one time in the head.

Herbert said that he also was able to speak to Encarnacion, who told police that it was Trinidad who had killed Morales and had called Encarnacion to tell him about it.

Herbert said it was telling how emotional Encarnacion got as they re-enacted what he said was a story told to him by Trinidad. He said Encarnacion picked up a stapler and was walking in the interrogation room and crying and was very vivid with the details as he relived how the murder was carried out.

On cross-examination by Lockwood, Herbert said that he did not speak to Encarnacion's grandmother about her telling the two men that he had gone out, and he also did not have any information to investigate Encarnacion's alibi witness.

Lockwood asked Herbert about reports from Encarnacion that Trinidad had threatened to kill him and that Trinidad had told Encarnacion that if he does not leave island Trinidad would kill him like Trinidad killed Morales.

Herbert acknowledged that those statements were made, and he said Trinidad acknowledged a conversation between him and Encarnacion, but Trinidad said the conversation was limited to Encarnacion telling Trinidad to tell police he was not at the Castle Coakley area the night of the murder.

When Trinidad testified Wednesday, he told the jurors that while the men were walking in a dark shortcut, Encarnacion shot Morales in the back of his head, then Encarnacion and Trinidad took his belongings.

Trinidad admitted to taking Morales' cell phone and selling it later, but he testified he did not take anything else.

Jurors also have heard testimony from several police officers, Morales' girlfriend, forensic technicians and Medical Examiner Dr. Francisco Landron, who confirmed that Morales died from a single gunshot wound to the head that entered the back and exited his forehead.

Landron said no projectile was recovered, so police were unable to determine what type of weapon was used in the shooting. He said the shooting was classified as a long-range shooting, with the gun being fired from at least 3 feet away.

Both men initially had been charged with the murder, and both told police it was the other man who fired the one gunshot through Morales' head, according to police.

Murder and related charges against Trinidad later were dismissed, and he pleaded guilty to a single count of giving false information to police.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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