A 25-year-old Lancaster man, convicted Friday of killing a Manheim Township man in 2014 after an argument over a “Jesus” medallion, was sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison.
Mathew Morales gunned down 25-year-old Xavier Garriga in the 800 block of New Holland Avenue shortly after 3 a.m. on June 21, 2014.
Lancaster County Judge Donald Totaro ordered the life term Tuesday after Morales refused to apologize for the murder.
“This isn’t fair to me or my family,” Morales told the judge. “I’m an innocent man.”
Morales and Garriga, who police said didn’t know each other, argued minutes before the shooting at a nearby Turkey Hill, according to testimony. They argued, a witness said, over a religious medallion Morales was wearing on a necklace.
About two minutes later, police said, Morales drove by Garriga, who was walking on the sidewalk, and fired three shots from the driver’s seat.
Garriga called 911 before he died, according to reports. Police found him on the sidewalk, and died soon after at Lancaster General Hospital.
According to an autopsy, a bullet struck Garriga in the chest, near an armpit, and pierced his spinal cord.
Before ordering the sentence, Totaro asked Morales about a tattoo he has that says, “Respect Few. Fear None.” Morales said it was a poor decision he made as a youth.
But Totaro said the tattoo defines Morales’ attitude.
“You did this because you felt disrespected,” the judge said. “Because you respect few and fear none.”
A jury, following a four-day trial last week, deliberated for about 75 minutes before issuing a guilty verdict. Totaro told Morales he agrees with the jury’s decision because the evidence was “very compelling and overwhelming.”
Defense attorney Edwin Pfursich attempted to cast doubt on some of the evidence against Morales, including a gun residue test, DNA evidence and shell casings found near the scene of the killing. He also said a witness “had every reason in the world” to lie about the murder, and he accused police of “working backwards” to develop a case fingering Morales as the killer.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Fetterman, who prosecuted the case, said Morales was a “gun fanatic” who acted senselessly after the dispute, because he felt threatened by Garriga.