For two years, the fate of 23-year-old Christina Morris, last seen walking with a man into the parking garage of an upscale shopping center in a Dallas suburb, has remained a mystery.
But on Wednesday jurors convicted that man, Enrique Arochi, 26, of the aggravated kidnapping of Morris, who vanished after the two were spotted together on surveillance video in the early morning hours of August 30, 2014, reports the Dallas Morning News.
Arochi, of Allen, Texas, faces five to 99 years in prison when he is sentenced Monday, reports the Allen American.
Morris’ stepmother, Anna Morris, reacted to the verdict afterward, telling reporters on the steps of the Collin County Courthouse in McKinney, “We can breathe,” according to WFAA. “I feel like the right thing happened.”
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Arochi’s defense attorney Keith Gore had objected during closing arguments to the state’s sole focus on his client. “There’s no evidence of what, when, where or how,” he said in attempting to dismiss the case against Arochi, which he said was circumstantial.
But prosecutors had the surveillance video that showed Morris, of Fort Worth, and Arochi walking together into the parking garage at The Shops at Legacy in Plano at 3:55 a.m the day Morris disappeared. Three minutes later, Arochi’s 2010 Chevrolet Camaro pulled out of the garage, they said. An hour after that, cell tower data indicated that Arochi’s and Morris’ phones still were together.
Prosecutors also told jurors that Morris’ DNA was found on the mat in the trunk of Arochi’s car. Police found Morris’ vehicle in the parking garage three days later, after she was reported missing.
Arochi’s defense challenged the DNA finding, and presented an expert who testified that the cell tower data could be unreliable. Defense attorney Gore also suggested police overlooked the possible alleged involvement in Morris’ disappearance of her boyfriend, Hunter Foster, who is currently serving a 33-month federal prison sentence for conspiracy to distribute MDMA. Foster earlier testified that he was given immunity from further criminal prosecution in exchange for his testimony about Morris.
Prosecutor Zeke Fortenberry told jurors who deliberated for 17 hours before reaching a verdict that they didn’t have to agree on what happened to Morris to determine who abducted her.
“Where is Christina Morris? We don’t know,” he said. “Imagine how difficult it is when you can’t say goodbye? When you can’t have a funeral because you don’t know where her body is?”
“There’s only on reasonable explanation to all the facts: that the defendant is responsible for the disappearance of Christina Morris.”
Fortenberry added: “DNA evidence is what puts Morris in that trunk.”