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Cold case cracked with cap Neal Putnam | Sat, Oct 26 2013 12:00 PM

Bail of $1 million was set Sept. 29 for a suspect charged with a cold-case homicide dating back to 1999 in Chula Vista.

The incident involved businessman Sergio Morales who was shot to death by an intruder on his porch.

The killer left a knit cap at the scene and DNA evidence eventually linked it to Joe Mora, 34, of Lancaster, who was arrested Sept. 27 and charged with killing Morales. Mora pleaded not guilty before San Diego Superior Court Judge David Szumowski.

The slaying occurred on Nov. 28, 1999, after Morales’ wife called Chula Vista Police at 6:50 p.m. saying a man burst into their home in the 500 block of Paseo Burga. Morales pushed him outside onto the porch and there was a struggle before he shot Morales several times, according to an arrest warrant declaration.

The incident started when a woman came to the front door saying her cat had gone into their back yard. The woman claimed to be a neighbor, but neither recognized her, so they did not let her inside. They searched for the cat, but could not find one.

When they went back to the front door, a man pushed his way inside briefly, but Morales pushed him back onto the porch where he was shot in the head and torso. The gunman then fled without taking any valuables. Police officers found his knit cap on the porch.

A male DNA profile was developed from the knit cap and a match was discovered in 2009 when Mora was arrested for a domestic violence charge in Lancaster. Morales’ wife said the suspect looked like he was Filipino. Mora is Hispanic, but “he has facial features similar to a Filipino including the shape of his eyes and skin tone,” the declaration says.

A former friend of Mora’s told authorities he was often mistaken for Filipino. Mora went to prison for the domestic violence charge, but was interviewed a year ago at a parole office by investigators who asked him about the knit cap that was dropped by a suspect at a homicide scene.

Mora refused to answer any questions and left. A friend of Mora’s told authorities Mora appeared to be “very shaken” by the questions of officers asking about a home invasion robbery. The declaration says officers did not mention a home invasion robbery.

Another witness told authorities on Sept. 26 Mora was going to flee to Mexico, and he was arrested the next day.

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