New Haven Man Sentenced to More Than 14 Years for Attempting to Cover-Up Son’s Arson That Killed Three
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that HECTOR MORALES, 51, of New Haven, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven to 174 months of imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release. After a four-week trial, Morales was convicted of being an accessory after the fact to the March 2011 arson of a two-family house in Fair Haven that caused the deaths of three residents, 41-year-old Wanda Roberson, her eight-year-old son Quayshaun Roberson and her 21-year-old niece Jaqueeta Roberson. The jury convicted Morales’s son Hector Natal of setting the arson that killed these three members of the Roberson family. Morales was also convicted of conspiring with Natal to distribute narcotics and to obstruct justice in their joint attempt to undermine law enforcement’s efforts to investigate the fatal arson.
“As the victims’ families so aptly described today, this crime was a senseless tragedy in which three innocents, Wanda Roberson, her young son Quayshaun and her niece Jaqueeta, were killed by a brutal and reckless drug dealer,” stated U.S. Attorney Daly. “This lengthy sentence is appropriate as Hector Morales literally drove his son’s criminality—driving him to drug deals, assisting him in his escape from the arson, and making every to avoid the detection of law enforcement by altering evidence and tampering with and intimidating witnesses. Our law enforcement partners, particularly the New Haven Fire and Police Departments, the FBI and the Connecticut State Police, expertly investigated this tremendously difficult case. We thank them for ensuring justice for the Roberson family who continue to suffer from an incomprehensible loss.”
“Today’s sentencing is a step toward closure and healing for the Fair Haven community and the Roberson family,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Patricia M. Ferrick. “It also demonstrates that disrespect of our judicial system will not be tolerated.”
On April 18, 2013, Natal and Morales were found guilty on all counts of an 11-count indictment. According to the evidence presented during trial, Natal was a New Haven drug dealer who sold cocaine, crack cocaine, pills and marijuana. Morales served as Natal’s driver, facilitating his sales of narcotics and collection of drug proceeds. Early on the morning of March 9, 2011, Natal set fire to 48-50 Wolcott Street in New Haven in retaliation for a customer’s failure to pay a small drug debt. Seventeen people, including three toddlers, two pregnant women and two grandmothers, were in the house at the time the fire was set. Morales and Natal lived close to the Wolcott house. After the fire was set, Morales drove Natal away from the scene in his blue van. Hearing reports that a blue van was seen leaving the scene, Morales painted his van black in an effort to obstruct the investigation of the fatal fire. Natal and Morales then schemed with other family members to testify falsely before the grand jury in an effort to prevent the grand jury from developing evidence regarding their complicity in the arson.
The evidence at trial also showed that, months before the fatal fire, Natal attempted to set a fire in the same Wolcott Street house.
Natal was found guilty of three counts of arson resulting in death, and one count of attempted arson. Natal and Morales were both convicted of conspiring to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute narcotics, conspiring to tamper with witnesses and witness tampering. Morales was found guilty on three counts of being an accessory after the fact to the arson, and one count of destruction and concealment of evidence. Morales has been detained since his arrest on July 19, 2012.
Natal, 29, has been detained since his arrest on June 14, 2011. He is scheduled to be sentenced on February 10.
This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New Haven Police Department, the Connecticut State Police Major Crimes Unit, Office of the State Fire Marshal, the New Haven Fire Department—Office of Fire Marshal, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Gustafson, with assistance and support from the New Haven State’s Attorney’s Office.