Prelim for 1999 Chula Vista cold case murder

CHULA VISTA - A woman testified Monday that her former boyfriend told her nearly two years ago that he was involved in a 1999 home-invasion robbery gone bad in Chula Vista in which a man was shot to death.

Alicia Ayala, testifying in a preliminary hearing for Joe Mora, said he came home shaken on Sept. 5, 2012, after being questioned by Chula Vista police detectives as he met with his parole officer.

Officers told Mora that a beanie found at the crime scene had his DNA on it, according to Deputy District Attorney Andrea Freshwater.

Ayala said Mora returned to their Lancaster home and snuggled next to
her and their child in an upstairs bedroom.

"He said, 'I thought I'd never see you guys again,"' Ayala testified.

The woman said Mora got close to her and whispered, "It was a home-invasion robbery that went wrong. He just kept coming at me."

Mora told Ayala that a man and a woman were with him at the crime scene, the witness said. Ayala said she called authorities about nine months later and told them what Mora had told her.

Mora, 34, was arrested last September and charged with murder.

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

No suspect in the case was identified until 2009, when DNA evidence on the beanie left at the crime scene allegedly linked Mora to the killing.

The preliminary hearing will continue on Tuesday. Judge Francis Devaney must determine if enough evidence was presented for Mora to proceed to trial.

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