VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A 24-year-old man will serve 21 years in prison in connection with the 2018 gang-related murder of a Chesapeake man.
According to the Virginia Beach Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, Jose Morales-Arriola pleaded guilty to participating in a criminal act for the benefit of or at the direction of the gang MS-13 and second-degree murder.
The charges stem from the murder of 19-year-old Jairo Guardado, who was found dead on the shore of Lake Smith in Virginia Beach on July 6, 2018. Guardado died from a gunshot wound to the back of the head, court documents say.
According to court documents, video surveillance, cell phone data and witness interviews ultimately led investigators to believe that the murder was related to MS-13 gang activity.
Morales-Arriola and four other men, including a 25-year-old man who was already charged with second-degree murder in relation to this case, were involved in Guardado's murder. According to investigators, Guardado's murder was ordered by a senior member of MS-13, Melvin Edgardo Molina-Ramos, because he believed Guardado was involved with a rival gang; however, investigators did not find evidence to support that.
Guardado was lured to the lake under the guise of fishing, drinking beer and smoking marijuana. Morales-Arriola shot Guardado once in the back of the head, then another man took a picture of Guardado as evidence of the killing.
Morales-Arriola and his co-defendants were threatened with death by Molina-Ramos if they failed or if they spoke of the homicide.
The Virginia Beach Police Department Homicide Unit, Norfolk Police Department Detective Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation Tidewater Violent Crimes Task Force, Federal Bureau of Investigation Norfolk Field Office and Fairfax County Police Department Gang Investigations Unit assisted with the investigation and prosecution of this case.