Man gets 5 years for role in fatal stabbing

December 11, 2003|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter, a 31-year-old Honduran immigrant was sentenced to five years in prison yesterday for his role in a fatal stabbing of a Columbia man.

Prosecutors said Marcus Tulio Moran provided transportation for two men charged in the killing and later disposed of bloody clothing and a butcher knife used in the slaying.

But prosecutors said Moran's participation was "minimal" and likely was spurred by fear of Elmer Antonio Galvan-Giron, one of the men accused of killing 40-year-old Rigoberto Zavala, at his apartment Aug. 12.

"I think Mr. Moran was put in a difficult position," prosecutor Jim Dietrich said after yesterday's hearing. "However, he had an opportunity to get out of it and for whatever reason, he didn't."

Prosecutors had asked Howard Circuit Judge James B. Dudley to impose the five-year sentence. State sentencing guidelines recommended a prison term of one year to six years for Moran.

Moran's attorney, Dino Flores, said his client could have argued at a trial that he was under "duress" but chose to plead guilty to the reduced charge rather than take a gamble on the original murder charge.

Moran, "feels absolutely terrible about being involved in this at all," Flores said.

Moran and Jerman Avelar, 28, who lived together in the 9600 block of White Acre Road, were arrested a few hours after Zavala's body was discovered on the kitchen floor of the apartment that he shared with Galvan-Giron in the 6500 block of Quiet Hours, prosecutors said.

Moran later told investigators that Galvan-Giron, 33, had asked him to pick him up Aug. 12 so he could run an errand, prosecutors said. After the three men bought a 12-pack of beer at a U.S. 1 liquor store, Galvan-Giron said he was going to kill "the kid" - an apparent reference to Zavala - and told Moran he had to help him, according to a statement of the case read in court.

Prosecutors said the men drove to the Quiet Hours address, where Galvan-Giron threatened Moran with a knife, and told him to wait.

Avelar later told investigators that he and Galvan-Giron stabbed Zavala several times and that Galvan-Giron threatened to kill him if he did not participate in the stabbing, prosecutors said.

Later, Galvan-Giron told Moran to drive to a Prince George's County park where, prosecutors say, he wrapped a knife in his bloody shirt. Moran told investigators he threw the shirt and knife in a trash bin after Galvan-Giron left, prosecutors said. With Moran's help, investigators found the items in a park trash bin.

Investigators later learned that Zavala had hit one of Galvan-Giron's children in the head with a remote control a few days earlier, sparking an argument and a threat from Galvan-Giron, prosecutors said.

Avelar and Galvan-Giron, who was arrested on Long Island, N.Y., two days after the killing, have each been charged with first-degree murder in Zavala's death. Their cases are scheduled for trial early next year.

During yesterday's hearing, Flores, who asked Dudley to consider a shorter sentence, said his client was a "more than reluctant" participant and had "no problem" with Zavala.

Galvan-Giron is known for violent behavior, Flores and Dietrich said.

"At the time [Moran] was involved in this, he did not feel that he had a choice other than to do what Mr. [Galvan-Giron] ordered him to do," Flores said.

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