Delivery alert

There may be an issue with the delivery of your newspaper. This alert will expire at NaN. Click here for more info.

Recover password

Rape, trafficking suspect to remain behind bars

Mario Morales

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Authorities say a man drugged, raped, beat and prostituted a woman repeatedly for nearly two years – holding her captive in brothels and bouncing between states. They say he fled to Arizona after she tried to commit suicide.

The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office extradited Mario Morales, 35, from Maricopa County, Ariz., on Nov. 27. He has since been in custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

A district judge ordered Friday that he remain behind bars until trial.

Morales faces numerous charges, including kidnapping, promoting prostitution, extortion, human trafficking and multiple counts of criminal sexual penetration, aggravated battery and false imprisonment.

Agents say the accusations against Morales came out during multiple interviews and safe house examinations with the victim, who was “trembling” and would often burst into tears as she recounted the years she spent with him.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit filed in 2nd Judicial District Court, the victim began dating Morales sometime in 2015, and it wasn’t long before the relationship became “unusual.”

The woman told agents it started with Morales asking her to have sex with another woman and, when she refused, coaxing her with meth and alcohol.

The woman told agents she and her two children were already living with Morales when he began to regularly beat her, give her drugs and force her to have sex with dealers for “free drugs.”

According to the affidavit, Morales sent her children to live with their father in Hobbs, as the relationship “became much more violent” and he forced her into “multiple unwanted sexual encounters.”

From there, agents say, the volatile relationship followed a trend that carried on for nearly two years and saw the pair evicted from apartments, homeless on the streets and living in brothels.

The woman told agents that at one such home, Morales would lock her in a room “without food and water” where she would “hear women screaming” throughout the day and he forced her to have sex with multiple people on countless occasions.

According to the affidavit, the woman was eventually hospitalized, and given a safe house examination, in April 2016 after Morales left the state.

During the examination, agents say the woman told a nurse about the many ways Morales abused her and forced her to have sex with several people; but she did not want to file a report, saying she feared for her safety.

Although it is unclear when, the woman told agents that she and her children reunited with Morales because she still had “an emotional attachment” and bounced between New Mexico and Arizona.

The woman told agents she ended up in a safe house in Albuquerque before she got back together with Morales and the two moved from home to home around Albuquerque.

During this time, agents say “the violence was so loud” that neighbors would call police but when officers showed up Morales would tell them the woman was “mentally ill” and the officers “believed him.”

“(She) would go along with Morales’ lie because she was fearful that he would hurt her if she did not,” an agent wrote. “She and Morales were eventually evicted from the apartment because of excessive police response to her apartment.”

The woman told agents she and Morales were homeless for a time before moving into a home that was being renovated in southwest Albuquerque in December 2017.

Agents say a trailer on the property housed “many women,” and the victim believed they were prostitutes. The victim told agents that Morales forced her into “commercial prostitution.”

The women told agents the pair became homeless again, and Morales left the state after taking her to a hospital when she tried to kill herself.

During interviews, the victim had a hard time recalling specific dates, which agents say corroborates her claim “that she was held against her will in a locked room for long periods of time.”

However, agents said they were able to corroborate several of the locations where the woman stayed with Morales through property managers and neighbors who remembered the couple.