Plea Negotiations Upcoming In Case Where Victim Was Shot Twice In Head

Raul Peralta Navalles (Cochise County Sheriff's Office)

A young man charged last year with premeditated murder for shooting a man twice in the head inside a Douglas home will return to court next month for discussions about plea negotiations to avoid a trail.

Raul Peralta Navalles is charged with eight felonies stemming from the August 2021 death of Ruperto Morales, whose body was sitting in a chair at the dining room table when discovered by his mother. He told investigators in a post-Miranda statement that he shot Morales in self-defense, but a grand jury indictment Navalles on three different types of first degree murder.

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Another of the felonies alleges Navelles, then 19, tampered with physical evidence by dousing Morales’ body with powered household cleaner before stealing items from the home and eventually fleeing into Mexico.

Court records show Navalles was taken into custody several weeks later after the FBI joined Det. Ivan Villaescusa of the Douglas Police Department in working the manhunt with Mexican officials. He has remained in the Cochise County jail in lieu of $1 million bond since being returned to the U.S.

Navalles was initially set to stand trial in March but Judge Laura Cardinal vacated the order due to delays at the state crime lab. Last week Navalles’ court appointed attorney advised the judge that a settlement conference will likely be requested at the next hearing on June 13.

A settlement conference permits the parties, including Morales’ mother, to meet with another judge in an attempt to negotiate a non-trial resolution. If no plea deal is worked out, a trial date would be announced by Cardinal for later this year.

Navalles became a suspect in Morales’ death when a local teenaged girl contacted police after unknowingly providing him a ride from the murder scene the morning of the shooting. She told Villaescusa that Navalles loaded several boxes from the Morales house into her car and had admitted shooting a man “twice.”

Court records show investigators later seized a .40 caliber handgun from the apartment Navalles was staying at. As to the claims of self-defense, Villaescusa testified last fall that an autopsy revealed no signs of Morales being involved in a physical struggle prior to being shot nor were any signs of a struggle found inside the home.