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Corona couple accused of murdering nephew

February 2, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Opening statements got under way Monday in the trial of a Corona couple accused of murdering their 11-year-old nephew.Ricky Morales was found dead in a closet in the couple's home on Dec. 26, 2005.

Raul Sarinana faces murder and torture charges. His wife Cathy is also charged with murder and child endangerment.

According to court documents, the Sarinanas called 911 to report Ricky's death and told investigators that he had been disciplined after refusing to eat his breakfast.

An autopsy showed the boy died from massive internal injuries. Riverside County deputy medical examiner Dr. Mark Fajardo also found "multiple external traumatic injuries," according to a pretrial brief filed by the prosecution.

"Scars on Ricky's body (were) consistent with being whipped with an electrical cord or similar instrument," the brief states. "Ricky's scrotum was damaged with a penetrating laceration, and his scrotal sac was severely damaged... There were multiple scars to Ricky's scalp, primarily centered on the back of his head.

"Finally, there were multiple circular injuries consistent with cigarette burns located throughout Ricky's body that were determined to be at least several weeks, if not several months, old."

According to the brief, Raul Sarinana told police that on Christmas Day 2005, Ricky was not eating, which his aunt viewed as an insult. Raul Sarinana told investigators he ordered his nephew to clean the bathroom, and when the boy appeared to be going too slow, Sarinana kicked him, court papers state.

Raul Sarinana told police he threw the boy in a bedroom closet as a disciplinary measure, and when the child appeared to be trying to get out, he kicked him again, according to the brief.

The Sarinanas apparently returned to the closet hours later to find their nephew dead.

The day after Ricky's body was found, investigators discovered his older brother's body encased in concrete outside the home. Investigators say 13-year-old Conrad Morales was killed in Washington several months earlier. The couple is being charged for Conrad's murder in Washington.

The judge is allowing a journal kept by Conrad to be used as evidence in the trial. The district attorney says the journal will paint a picture of what home life was like while the kids lived with their aunt and uncle. It reportedly details frustration from the older brother, explaining problems he apparently had with wetting his bed, as well as questions about his own sexuality.

Separate juries will hear evidence for each defendant. As opening statements go forward, the two 12 person juries will have to decide whether there is enough evidence to show that Raul and Cathy Sarinana tortured and murdered their nephew.

The prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the Sarinanas. In opening statements, the DA said there was prolonged, repeated abuse, which killed the 11-year-old.

The defense says Raul Sarinanas was going through a lot of problems and was on medication, and in no way meant for the child to die.

City News Service contributed to this report.


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