Florida felon remains at large after North Texas stabbing, escape

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by TODD UNGER, MARJORIE OWENS and MATT GOODMAN

WFAA

Posted on February 13, 2013 at 9:42 AM

Updated Monday, Nov 11 at 6:43 AM

GRAPEVINE, Texas — There's fear in North Texas over a Florida fugitive with a $10,000 reward on his head.

Alberto Morales staged a daring escape in Grapevine Monday night, putting a police officer in the hospital.

He's now become one of the most wanted men in the State of Texas.

Twenty-four hours after Morales broke free of police custody, he remained at large. The manhunt was expanded across the entire state, but in Grapevine, there was still a heavy police presence on Tuesday night.

Police said the the rainy weather made it tough to follow any tracks.

Late Monday night, Morales stabbed a Miami transport officer with part of his eyeglasses at a Walmart store in Grapevine. He was being transported from Florida to Las Vegas to face sexual assault charges.

The injured officer was reported in serious but stable condition.

Originally, Morales was being flown to Nevada accompanied by two officers, but he became so disruptive on board that his minders elected to drive the rest of the way after landing in Houston.

The area surrounding Morales' escape was combed for clues all day Tuesday, mostly because the 43-year-old was still shackled when he got away, and investigators questioned just how far he could go.

Police suspected that Morales might have stolen a white SUV that was missing from a motel in Irving. They were especially concerned after learning that the vehicle had a gun inside.

That SUV was pulled over just before 10 p.m. Tuesday on Interstate 30, but Alberto Morales was not inside.

Morales is considered very dangerous, and anyone who spots him should call 911 immediately.

E-mail tunger@wfaa.com


Earlier updates to this story follow:

 
Update at 10:20 p.m.:
 
Police tonight located a stolen white SUV that was thought to have been stolen by Alberto Morales. Two people were arrested, but neither was the wanted man.
 
Update at 9:54 p.m.: 
 
A command center has been dismantled with still no confirmed sightings of Alberto Morales. Detectives from Miami have arrived in North Texas to help with the search.
 
Update at 4:45 p.m.: 
 
It's now been about 19 hours since Morales escaped. Grapevine police spokesman Sgt. Robert Eberling says he still believes the suspect is in North Texas, saying, "we don't have any reason to believe that he's not." 
 
Grapevine and many surrounding cities have made robocalls alerting residents that there is a violent convict evading capture. However, Eberling said it doesn't mean that he's been seen in one of them. Investigators are digging into each tip, but as of Tuesday afternoon, there hasn't been a confirmed sighting. 
 
"We're getting all kind of tips like that; we're certainly trying to investigate all the ones that come in. Other jurisdictions are getting similar type calls, but as of right now we can't confirm any of those sightings as being our suspect," he said. 
 
Update at 4:01 p.m.: 
 
The Texas Department of Public Safety has issued a Blue Alert, which are only used when authorities need to catch a suspect who pose a particular danger to law enforcement officers. In the announcement, DPS specifies that the stolen SUV mentioned earlier is a 2008 white Ford Explorer. 
 
"Law enforcement officials believe this vehicle to be associated with the serious injury of a law enforcement officer, involving a serious risk or threat to the public and other law enforcement personnel," the release says. 
 
Eberling still says the stolen vehicle is merely of interest –– there's still no solid proof linking it to Morales. 
 
"It was the only vehicle stolen in the area," he said. "We certainly don't want to overlook it and we want to get that vehicle stopped as soon as we can." 
 
Update at 1:41 p.m.: 
 
The Keller Independent School District has joined Carroll ISD, Northwest ISD and Grapevine-Colleyville ISD in locking the doors of its campuses as authorities search for Morales. Below is the alert sent to parents: 

At this time the district has executed an exterior lockdown closing  all campuses and district facilities to visitors. This is a precaution as a result of a prisoner escape reported in Grapevine this morning.

Our surrounding districts have instituted similar procedures and while there is no known imminent threat we are taking this action to ensure the utmost safety of our students. 

This soft lockdown will be lifted at the end of the school day, and afternoon releases will take place as normal.

Please monitor the district’s web site at KellerISD.net for the most current information regarding changes to the lockdown.

Update at 12:49 p.m.: 

Grapevine Police Department spokesman Sgt. Robert Eberling is asking drivers to be on the lookout for a stolen white Ford SUV. While there's no indication that Morales stole the car, it is a "vehicle of interest" and was taken between 10 p.m. Monday and 10 a.m. Tuesday. 

The SUV has Texas license plates and the identifier of 19Z-JW8. It was stolen from a Super 8 Motel located at 4470 West SH-114 and has a handgun inside. The location is about seven miles from where Morales escaped police. 

"Because the vehicle was stolen in close proximity to the last known whereabouts of Morales, we want the public to be aware of this information," Eberling wrote in an email. 

Report from 12:30 p.m.:

Alberto Morales was arrested in Nevada in 2008 and shipped back to Miami where he had warrants for his arrest. Miami Police Department spokeswoman Det. Aida Fina-Milian said the 41-year-old was wanted on two counts of armed burglary with assault or battery; two counts of kidnapping with a weapon; and five counts of sexual battery with a deadly weapon. 

But Morales also had charges in Nevada when he was arrested. And so, after pleading guilty on Dec. 3 to the Miami crimes, authorities made arrangements to send him to Nevada for a court hearing. Fina-Milian was unsure of the charges against him in Nevada. 

According to a statement released by the Miami-Dade Police Department, two detectives were in the midst of transporting Morales on a commercial flight from Miami to Las Vegas with a layover in Houston.  

While on the first leg of the flight,  Morales began slamming his head against the seat, Fina-Milian said. He was then not allowed to board the connecting flight to Las Vegas due to his behavior.

To continue the transport, officers rented an SUV to finish the remainder of the trip to Nevada. They began heading toward Dallas to meet a third detective who would further assist in the ground transportation.

"It's not common because we usually travel by plane, but in this instance, it was kind of unforseen circumstances and they weren't allowed back on the plane," Fina-Milian said.   

Before the SUV arrived in Dallas, the detectives stopped at about 11 p.m. at a Walmart Supercenter, located off Ira E. Woods Ave and State Highway 114 in Grapevine. As one detective went inside to use the restroom, Det. Jaime Pardinas waited with Morales.

Morales allegedly broke off the ear piece to a pair of his sunglasses and stabbed Pardinas multiple times in the back and chest, fleeing the scene in shackles, said Sgt. Robert Eberling, a spokesman with the Grapevine Police Department.

Pardinas was transported to Parkland Memorial Hospital where he underwent surgery and is listed in serious condition, Fina-Millian said. The 28-year veteran's family is at his side.

Eberling said Morales now faces an additional four charges, including attempted capital murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault on a police officer and escape from custody. A $1 million bond was set for each charge. 

While Eberling said the detective's weapon was not taken during the incident, the violent sex offender is considered armed and dangerous.

"He's a very dangerous individual," Eberling said. "According to his criminal history, there are a lot of violent crimes in his past. So, if anyone spots him, they need to contact the police department immediately, they do not need to try to confront this individual."

According to police, Morales' criminal past includes kidnapping with a deadly weapon, burglary with the use of deadly weapon, sexual battery with a deadly weapon, larceny by a lodger and open and gross lewdness.

During the transportation, Morales, who is 5'6" and weighs 145 lbs., was wearing street clothes –– Eberling said he was in a light-colored hooded sweatshirt and gray shorts. Morales may still be wearing his shackles.

The city of Grapevine has called residents on its alert list with an automated message urging them to be aware of their surroundings and to lock their doors. The Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District has locked the doors at all of its campuses as authorities continue their search. All Northwest ISD campuses east of Interstate 35 are also under a soft lockdown. 

"We would like to urge the citizens, if you know of any coworkers that live in Grapevine that haven't arrived at work today to please call us so we can investigate that and check on their welfare," Eberling said.

Morales has a tattoo on his left upper arm of an American Indian on a horse. The Texas Department of Public Safety has also issued a $10,000 reward for any information leading to his arrest and prosecution.

Neighboring police departments, the U.S. Marshals Services and the Texas Department of Public Safety have joined the Grapevine Police Department in their search for Morales.

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