Another Accomplice Charged in Murder of Elder Morales Last Year

An alleged accessory to the 2013 murder of Elder Morales in Chelsea was held on high bail following his indictment last Thursday in Boston’s Suffolk Superior Court.

Armando Lopez, 29, was arraigned yesterday in Suffolk Superior Court as an accessory after the fact to Morales’ March 5, 2013, homicide. Lopez is also charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and one count of unlawful possession of ammunition, also in connection with Morales’ shooting death.

Lopez had been held on $25,000 bail since his February arraignment on the firearm charges in Chelsea District Court. On Thursday, Suffolk Superior Court Clerk Magistrate Connie Wong raised Lopez’s bail to $40,000.

Prosecutors told the court that Lopez knew his fellow gang associate, Jonathan Castro, 23, of Chelsea, was accused of shooting Morales to death, yet agreed to help conceal Castro’s gun and clothing after the homicide. Castro was able to dispose of the items prior to his arrest and, while held without bail on a murder charge, coordinated with Lopez to have the items retrieved and brought to Lopez’s home, prosecutors said.

A search warrant executed at Lopez’s home by Chelsea and State Police detectives did not recover the murder weapon. It did, however, yield a different revolver loaded with five rounds of ammunition, prosecutors said.

Lopez is the fourth man charged in connection with Morales’ murder.

Erick Romero, 15, of Chelsea, is charged in Chelsea Juvenile Court with manslaughter and two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon. Though he is a juvenile, prosecutors indicted Romero as a youthful offender, making the case public and exposing him to the same penalties as an adult, if convicted.

Elder Portillo, 19, is charged with second-degree murder and two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon.

All four arrests were made by Chelsea Police and the Suffolk County State Police Detective Unit.

Prosecutors allege Morales was on the porch of a Blossom Street address shortly before 9 p.m. when a group of men, including Castro, approached him. One member of the group, whose face was obscured by a mask, walked up with a knife and exchanged words with Morales.

The other members of the group then rushed toward Morales. At this point, Castro pulled a revolver and began to fire multiple shots. Morales attempted to flee but was struck twice, suffering mortal injuries. He was transported to Whidden Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.

Based on witness interviews, video surveillance, and the efforts of Chelsea Police and State Troopers through the night of the murder, Castro and two other men were tracked to the defendant’s Everett home. Castro agreed to speak with investigators at Chelsea Police headquarters and admitted in a recorded, post-Miranda statement to firing at Morales.

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