Suspects arrested in connection with March 10, 2018 murder of Daniel Cruz

Date: 
11.27.2018

Following arraignments scheduled at 2 p.m., members of the District Attorney’s Office will be available for questions at the courthouse.

For immediate release: Nov. 27, 2018

On November 26, 2018, a Hampshire Grand Jury issued a total of 51 indictments against eight individuals for their alleged involvement in the murder of Daniel Cruz, 44, of Northampton, on March 10, 2018, the concealment of his murder, and/or the subsequent police and grand jury investigation. 

Subsequently, the Court issued warrants for their arrests.

  • Nerkin Omar Morales, 22, of Northampton, was indicted on a charge of Murder, as well as several other charges. 
  • Pedro J. Soto-Rodriguez, 21, of Northampton, Mercedes N. Diaz-Wright, 22, of Northampton, Alondra E. Gil, 23, of Northampton, Chelsea T. Rodriguez, 22, of Northampton, Kimberly A. Perez, 26, of Springfield, and Matthew M. Ross, 24, of Northampton, were all indicted on a charge of Accessory After the Fact to Murder, as well as several other charges.
  • Joshua T. Ealy, 20, of Northampton, was indicted on a charge of Perjury related to the grand jury investigation in this case.

Diaz-Wright, Perez, and Ross, were arrested this morning by members of the Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit assigned to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, the Northampton Police Department, the Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section of the Massachusetts State Police, the Northwestern District Attorney’s Anti-Crime Task Force, the Springfield Police Department and the Agawam Police Department. 

Diaz-Wright is expected to be arraigned in the Hampshire Superior Court at 12:30 pm today.  Perez and Ross are expected to be arraigned at 2 p.m. today. 

Morales, Soto-Rodriguez, and Ealy, are currently in custody at a House of Correction and their arraignment dates will be determined by the Court. 

Gil and Rodriguez remain at large.

The Commonwealth alleges that, on the morning of March 10, 2018, during an argument and altercation at an apartment in the Meadowbrook Apartment Complex in Northampton, involving Cruz, Soto-Rodriguez, and Morales, Morales shot Cruz three times, killing him.  Morales and Soto-Rodriguez immediately involved several other individuals who then actively conspired and worked in concert to conceal the murder.  This group of individuals, among other things, worked to clean blood from the crime scene, dispose of Morales’ clothing worn during the murder, hide the murder weapon, and conceal Cruz’s body until nightfall.  After dark, the group transported Cruz’s body to a field off Bridge Lane in Hatfield, poured gasoline on his body, and lit his body on fire.  After a neighbor in the area called the police after observing the fire, a Hatfield police officer located Cruz’s body still burning and extinguished it.  A police investigation involving multiple agencies immediately ensued and continued over the course of the last eight months.

A grand jury investigation into the death of Cruz began on April 2, 2018.  Multiple witnesses were called before the grand jury over the course of the last eight months.  Four people were previously indicted for Perjury and have cases actively pending in the Hampshire Superior Court, for offering false, material testimony in the grand jury: Alondra Gil, Kimberly Perez, Luis F. Dellarosa, 43, of Turners Falls, and Diafuka M. Kayamba, 22, of Chicopee.  Additionally, Mercedes Diaz-Wright was previously indicted on a charge of Misleading a Police Officer based on information she provided during an April 2, 2018, interview with the Massachusetts State Police regarding the death of Cruz.

The investigation in this case is being conducted jointly by the Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit assigned to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, led by Trooper Daniel Paras, and the Northampton Police Department, led by Detective Peter Fappiano.  Over the course of the last eight months, these agencies have been assisted by members of the Hatfield Police Department, the Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section of the Massachusetts State Police, the Crime Scene Services Section of the Massachusetts State Police, the Firearms Identification Section of the Massachusetts State Police, the Northwestern District Attorney’s Anti-Crime Task Force, and scientists from the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Suhl.

Below is a full listing of the 51 indictments issued yesterday:

NERKIN OMAR MORALES: Murder, Burning Personal  Property, Withhold Evidence from Criminal Proceeding, Conspiracy (two counts), Improper Disposition of a Human Body, Intimidation of a Witness, Unlawful Possession of a Firearm as an Armed Career Criminal, Use of a Firearm in a Felony, and Discharging a Firearm within 500 Feet of a Dwelling.

PEDRO J. SOTO-RODRIGUEZ: Accessory After the Fact, Burning Personal  Property, Withhold Evidence from Criminal Proceeding (two counts), Conspiracy (two counts), Improper Disposition of a Human Body, and Intimidation of a Witness.

MERCEDES N. DIAZ-WRIGHT: Accessory After the Fact, Burning Personal  Property, Withhold Evidence from Criminal Proceeding (two counts), Conspiracy (two counts), Improper Disposition of a Human Body, Intimidation of a Witness, Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, Unlawful Possession of Ammunition without Identification Card, Misleading a Police Officer, and Subornation of Perjury.

ALONDRA E. GIL: Accessory After the Fact, Burning Personal  Property, Withhold Evidence from Criminal Proceeding, Conspiracy (two counts), and Improper Disposition of a Human Body.

KIMBERLY A. PEREZ: Accessory After the Fact, Burning Personal  Property, Withhold Evidence from Criminal Proceeding, Conspiracy (two counts), and Improper Disposition of a Human Body.

CHELSEA T. RODRIGUEZ: Accessory After the Fact, Burning Personal  Property, Withhold Evidence from Criminal Proceeding (two counts), Conspiracy (two counts), and Improper Disposition of a Human Body.

MATTHEW M. ROSS: Accessory After the Fact.

JOSHUA T. EALY: Perjury.

Defendants in criminal cases are presumed innocent until proven guilty.