Jury to begin deliberations today in St. Croix murder trial

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ST. CROIX - Jurors will begin deliberating today in the murder trial of Jomar Encarnacion, who is accused of shooting Misael Morales in the head as they walked in Castle Coakley in March 2010.

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 as they walked through a dirt path with a third man - Chayanne Trinidad - who initially also was charged in the murder.

The murder and related charges against Trinidad were dismissed after he told police his version of what happened that night, and he instead pleaded guilty to making a false report and was sentenced to probation.

Trinidad testified as a prosecution witness last week, and while he admitted to stealing a cell phone from the dead man and later selling it, he pointed out Encarnacion as the trigger man.

Defense Attorney Charles Lockwood, who began calling witnesses last week, called two final witnesses Monday who testified that Encarnacion was at the race track during the time of the murder.

Dory Jacobs told the court that he was preparing a motorcycle for the races, and Encarnacion had been working with him throughout the afternoon and when it got dark, they went to the track to watch the races. He testified that they had gone about 8 or 8:30 that night, but in refreshing his memory with his statement he gave to Lockwood months after the murder, Jacobs said they left for the races about 6 or 6:30 p.m. March 19.

Witnesses have said the shooting occurred about 9 p.m.

In her closing arguments, Assistant Attorney General Andrette Watson told the jurors there was no doubt that Morales was shot and killed then robbed, and Trinidad's testimony was clear that Encarnacion was the one who did it.

As she flipped through photographs previously admitted into evidence, Watson put a picture on the overhead projector that showed Morales' lifeless body in a grassy area with dried blood around him. She pointed out that his pockets were turned inside out, evidence of the robbery, and his gold chain and money were also gone.

Morales' mother, who was in the courtroom, gasped loudly then began to sob as she turned away from looking at the picture.

Watson said three people were walking in the field before the shooting and Encarnacion decided to kill Morales and make Trinidad a witness when he pulled the trigger.

"Regardless of how you feel about Trinidad, this is not about him, it is about this man and how he shot Misael Morales in the back of his head," Watson said, pointing at Encarnacion sitting at the defense table.

Watson said in Encarnacion's statement to police he says that he went to get Morales and Trinidad about 6 p.m. from a bar, something Watson said should be looked at closely, because that is the same time that his grandmother and alibi witness said he left for the track.

Lockwood scoffed at the notion that the prosecution had disproved Encarnacion's alibi witnesses.

"Not even a shred of evidence against what any of those four ordinary people came in here and said to you," he said. "My client had nothing to prove, but he fought to show his innocence, and it all comes down to the government not meeting that burden of proof."

Lockwood said Morales and Encarnacion were great friends and Encarnacion had no motive to kill Morales. He said Trinidad was unemployed and looked at Morales as a meal ticket, and even as Morales pulled out money as he bought him drinks at the bar, he was plotting how he could take it and shot Morales.

He said Trinidad then made up a story and convinced the police that he was a witness and the police never followed up with any of Encarnacion's alibi witnesses or other information that would have made his story clear.

V.I. Superior Court Judge Harold Willocks denied motions Thursday and again Monday seeking that murder and related charges against Encarnacion be dismissed on the basis that prosecutors had not proved their case against him.

Encarnacion is released on house arrest, pending the outcome of the trial.

Jurors received the final instruction Monday and will go straight into deliberating this morning and could reach a verdict by the end of the day.

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

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