Raul and Cathy Lynn Sarinana

The cases that are the most difficult for me not just to blog about but to even read are those that involve the murder of a child. While some would argue that all murders are senseless, and to an extent I would agree, it is the murder of the child that is the most difficult to understand. The ones that are even worse in my opinion is when the authorities have been given opportunity after opportunity to save the child and fails.

It appears that most of the time after the death of a child who has had an open file within the Department of Children Services, or more often referred to as CPS, there is always a community uproar and while it appears on the surface that an investigation, at least within the department will be made, it is only on the rare occasion that something is truly done and changed. In the case involving the deaths of fourteen year old Conrad Morales and his eleven year old brother Ricky, they had CPS files in two different states and still they were failed.

Some would say that Conrad and Ricky never had much of a chance at a normal life. It appears their mother, Rosa Sarinana, was in and out of jail, mainly on drug related charges, most of their life. There were four Morales children with Conrad and Ricky having two older sisters. Reports simply say that their father was deported but knowing the background it appears that may have likely been because of drugs also. So here were these four children being primarily raised by a drug addict. They were in and out of foster case most of their life it seems in their home state of California. Then in the middle of 2004 once again Rosa was headed off to jail. Her older girls went to live with other friends and relatives while Conrad went to live with Rosa's older brother, Raul and his family in Washington State. Ricky went to live with Rosa's mother, at least at first.

Raul lived with his wife Cathy and initially their young daughter (they would have another child, a boy soon after) in Randle Washington. Apparently Raul was a “convicted felon” although in fairness I could find nothing that specified what this had entailed. It appears that Raul also had a temper, and most people knew it. While Conrad was with Raul the rest of the family received what they called “glowing reports” about how well he was doing but it does not appear that anyone, including child services, checked on anything to see if these things were true. According to Raul, Conrad was doing well and excelling in school and had been no problem at all while he fit in with his family. Six months into the new arrangement Ricky was not doing so well with his grandmother and had not adjusted well. He too then went to Randle Washington to live with his brother, his uncle and his family. Determining just how he got there depends on who is telling the story it seems. According to Rosa she did not want Ricky to go live with her brother. She claims that she was told by CPS that since Conrad was doing so well (it is assumed this is thought simply from the letters from Raul) that if Ricky did not go there both of the boys would be put back in foster care. CPS seemed to remain quiet on this subject a bit or divert themselves away from blame. In fairness too, Rosa told the press this after the deaths of her sons so whether she truly did not want Ricky there with her brother at the time is anyone's guess I suppose.

Meanwhile in Washington, obviously things were not going as well as they had been reported. Apparently Conrad had been enrolled in school but by May of 2005 he had been withdrawn from the school and enrolled in a home schooling program after there had been allegations of abuse reported to the local CPS department. They had supposedly opened and investigation and found the allegations “unfounded.” This is often a tactic used by abusive parents after people within the school and surrounding area have reported them for suspicions of child abuse. The abusers have figured out that they have not kept their abuse hidden enough or believe the victim is talking. By isolating the victim and confining them they have more control over who the victim speaks to and generally use scare tactics to keep them quiet. Reports state that it does not appear that Ricky was ever enrolled in any sort of school and apparently no one was checking or following up.

Rosa seemingly did not spend a lot of time in jail but it is unclear exactly when she was released. My research indicated that although she had been released she was not in a position for a while to take care of her children. However, while Raul and Cathy were still claiming how wonderful the boys were and how glad they were to have them living with them, there were still suspicions of abuse, at least from the family. They would claim that while Raul and Cathy were telling them everything was fine, and neither of the boys said differently, that the boys did not sound well when they talked to them. This too is a tactic often used by abusers. It is more than likely that Raul and Cathy sat and listened when the boys spoke to relatives so they did not have an opportunity to tell anyone what was really going on. It is not clear just how often the family in California spoke to either of the boys are even to Raul or Cathy. However, it appears that by October of 2005 Rosa was pushing to have the boys back in California with her. It was then that she was told by Raul and Cathy that Conrad had run away. Until this point no one had heard this story, nor had their been a missing person's report or even any sort of police report filed on Conrad. It was not until October 8, 2005 that Cathy would report Conrad missing. Soon after Raul, Cathy, their two young children and Ricky would relocate back to Corona California, near San Diego and apparently family although they would give family members a false address. Most believe the couple left Washington to avoid any more questions about Conrad.

Once in California the two adults, the teenager and two small children apparently lived in a one bedroom duplex. Authorities would come to believe that while it was unclear where the children slept, Ricky was confined to spending much of his time in the bedroom closet. On the morning of December 25, 2005 Ricky would speak to his aunt and beg for her to come and get him. It appears that his aunt went to the address that she had been given by her brother, Raul, but found that it was not correct. Meanwhile, Ricky would be spending his last few hours of life, and no one knew it.

Around 2:00 pm the following afternoon 911 operators would receive a call. Some reports say that the call was made by Raul, while others claim Cathy made the call. It appears they simply would claim that Ricky was found unresponsive in the home. However, once EMT's and investigators arrived they immediately knew I was much more than that. And, while a coroner was examining Ricky's body and finding evidence of not just recent abuse but long term abuse investigators would learn from family that Conrad had not been seen in several months. They would return to the home and in the car port, in a trash can, they would find a body wrapped in trash bags and encased in concrete. They immediately suspected that it was Conrad and that would later be confirmed.

While the coroner was doing an examination the police were interviewing both Raul and Cathy. The coroner would discover that Ricky's cause of death had been all but internal bleeding. Ricky also had a severe infection on the back of his upper thighs and while his body was riddled with fresh and old injuries that had healed over by various degrees, one of the biggest things they saw was what appeared to be cigarette burns and/or scars from such all over his body. It appears that Raul readily confessed, not just to Ricky's murder, but also Conrad's. And, while both Raul and Cathy would ultimately face trial in Ricky's murder and Washington has apparently decided not to file charges in Conrad's death as of yet, I want to start with his death.

While there is really little information as to just exactly what led up to Conrad's murder and as I said neither Raul or Cathy have faced charges, it was his death that partly at least it seems, contributed to Ricky's murder, as well as it was Conrad's own words that helped the prosecution. It is believed that Conrad died on or around August 22, 2005 in Randle Washington. Again, while complete details do not seem to have been reported, it is believe his murder was a direct result of the abuse he suffered from his aunt and uncle. Keep in mind it was reports of abuse to the Washington State CPS that had resulted in him being removed from school. Among the things found inside the Sarinana home investigators also found a journal that Conrad had written. Whether there was much talk about specific in the abuse he suffered is unknown but there was at least one entry in which stated that when Cathy was having “a bad day” the rest of the family was punished. This statement became important in the investigation and especially the trial because Cathy's defense would claim that she knew little of the abuse the boys suffered while in the same respect claiming that Raul had been abusive to her and she was a sufferer of Battered Woman's Syndrome. All that is really known is that Conrad died while the couple still lived in Randle Washington and they had obviously hidden his body and carried it with them to California.

As far as Ricky's death, since the couple was put on trial, there is more known. Raul would claim in his confession that sometime on Christmas Day that Cathy had made a meal and that Ricky had vomited. As punishment for apparently not appreciating the meal that he had received Ricky was told to clean the bathroom. According to Raul, Ricky was not cleaning the bathroom fast enough for his liking so he had repeatedly kicked him and then later put him in the closet in the master bedroom that investigators would later say was infested with feces. Raul and Cathy then apparently, while Ricky was dying in the closet, had friends over to enjoy their Christmas dinner. It was the following day when they opened the closet and discovered his body. Raul and Cathy were promptly arrested and charged with the murder of Ricky Morales.

The state of California would try the couple together but with separate juries. The prosecution was seeking the death penalty for both of the defendants. For Raul, while his defense really could not say he was not involved or responsible due to his confession, the defense argued that it was never his intention for Ricky to die and so the charge of first degree murder, which made him eligible for the death penalty did not apply. Cathy's defense would argue as I said earlier that she was a battered woman and that she had never inflicted abuse on the boys while arguing that Raul had abused her as well. While it may have seemed unfair to an extent, the prosecutors as well as the general public made note of the fact of Cathy's size. At the time of her trial it was said she weighed nearly 500 lbs. Now, in her defense I cannot say just how mobile she was due to her size but there was no indication made that she was immobile. There was one allegation that part of Cathy's abuse to the boys occurred when she would sit on them, sometimes blocking their airways and injuring them. However, the biggest thing the prosecution had when it came to disproving Cathy's defense, despite there being a few, although it seems it was her family, claiming they saw abuse from Raul to Cathy, was that Cathy was the only smoker in the home. Remember, Ricky was covered in what the coroner believed to be cigarette burns that had been inflicted over a long period of time due to their levels of healing. The other argument from the prosecution is that there was absolutely no way that Cathy could not have seen what was happening to those boys so even if one did believe her story of abuse at the very, very least she failed to protect the boys. And, while they were only on trial for the murder of Ricky, evidence relating to Conrad's death was also entered, including the fact that Ricky had witnessed the death of his brother, which could have led to motive in his own death, and the fact that the couple had concealed the body and even brought it from out of state with them.

The prosecution theorized that the motive behind first the murder was not just that Ricky had seen the murder of his brother, but that the couple knew that other family members were getting closer to him and the real story of not only what was going on in the home, but what happened to Conrad would come out. The prosecution expressed to the juries how seemingly uncaring the couple had seemed at the death of Ricky, or at the very least his injuries, as they sat down with friends for Christmas dinner. These friends would indicate they had no idea or inkling that something was odd in the home during the visit. While I am unsure just exactly how the prosecution explained why the couple had reported Ricky's death after they had not done the same with Conrad, I personally suspect that it was because they knew they could not simply say he ran away as they had Conrad. Ricky was close enough to family members to go to them at that point and they also knew family members would find it suspicious. The prosecution also believed that the couple knew long before they reported Ricky's death that he had died and took the time to figure out what to do. I am unsure if I agree with this because it was the reporting of Ricky's death that truly set their fate and they apparently did not even remove Conrad's body from the property. I would think that, although murderers are often ignorant, that they would have known the second they reported Ricky's death that family members would report that Conrad was also missing and investigators would come looking.

While Cathy's defense, again argued that Raul was almost exclusively to blame, Raul's defense also pointed out that Raul had a much lower IQ than Cathy and portrayed her as the more dominant of the two. Cathy's defense attorney's had her examined by a psychiatrist prior to the trial but they never called them, or any other expert witness to the stand. Neither of their defenses apparently swayed their juries as not only were they both convicted but within days of each other in the summer of 2009 they were both sentenced to death. They remain on California's death row. Whether they will ever be executed is anyone's guess considering there has not been an execution there since 2006. The legalities of their statue on the death penalty has been at odds for many years. In the same respect the past year has seen several states that had lulls in their executions be able to successfully overcome those challenges and start executions again. Currently there are over 700 inmates on California's death row.

At the time of their convictions it was said that Washington was still considering whether they would file charges against the couple in the death of Conrad. It appears that they never have. This is not necessarily a bad thing and may have been a strategy by the prosecution in both states. First, the fact of the matter is that someone can only die once and if the sentence stands in California there is really little reason for the taxpayers of Washington to put on a trial. Secondly, due to the sentence there is an automatic appeal in the case, let alone normal appeals. No one can say what will happen. We have all seen stranger things happen than a death penalty overturned or even a case be completely overturned due to some technicality in the courts. That being said, if that were to happen here to either Raul or Cathy, the state of Washington can immediately have them charged in the murder of Conrad. This has been done in cases in the past in which due to legal regulations or sentencing guidelines a person that investigators all know is a danger to society is scheduled to be released. In order to ensure their incarceration previous charges that had never been filed can be immediately filed. With this said the odds of either Raul or Cathy ever being released are slim to none, regardless of any outcome of appeals.


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