Walter Morales Jr. | Credit: Courtesy

Gang member Walter Alexander Morales Jr., 31, was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison on Thursday for the 2019 murder of 22-year-old U.S. Army soldier Marlon Brumfield in Lompoc, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office announced on Friday.

A resident of Santa Maria, Morales was sentenced in Santa Maria Superior Court by Judge Denise Hippach after pleading guilty on June 13 to first-degree murder, as well as enhancements for committing the murder for the benefit of a criminal street gang and intentionally discharging a firearm causing death.

“The sentencing brings closure after a five-year battle for justice for [Brumfield’s] family,” the DA’s Office said in this Friday’s statement.

U.S. Army soldier Marlon Brumfield was murdered while on leave visiting family in Lompoc in September 2019. | Credit: Facebook

Born in Michigan, Brumfield relocated in 2005 to Lompoc, where he played football at Cabrillo High School and graduated from El Puente High School, according to his obituary. Brumfield joined the U.S. Army in 2017, according to Stars and Stripes, and was stationed in Vilseck, Germany, as a Stryker maintainer with the Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment. He was in Lompoc visiting family while on leave from his post in Germany at the time of his murder.

Francisco Gutierrez Ortega | Credit: Courtesy

On September 8, 2019, Morales was the passenger in a vehicle driven by his co-defendant, Francisco Gutierrez Ortega, 29, when they came across Brumfield and a friend crossing the street at Ocean and A streets in Lompoc at around 2 a.m., according to the DA’s Office. Morales instructed Gutierrez Ortega to confront Brumfield and his friend, who he believed were members of a rival street gang. Despite Brumfield and his friend saying they were not affiliated with any gang, Morales fired four shots from the vehicle, fatally wounding Brumfield, the DA’s Office stated.

Gutierrez Ortega was arrested shortly after the incident and subsequently pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter; he faces an 11-year prison sentence, the DA’s Office stated. Morales, however, fled to Mexico and did not return to the area until July 2020, “continuing a pattern of violent behavior until his arrest by the SWAT team that were dispatched to his home,” according to the DA’s Office.

Deputy DA Jordan Lockey, who led the prosecution against Morales, conveyed his “deep gratitude for the unwavering dedication and tireless collective efforts of the Lompoc Police Department, led by the leadership of Corporal Michael Miller,” the DA’s Office stated. “Their relentless pursuit of justice for Mr. Brumfield’s family and their commitment to ensuring the safety of the Lompoc community have been truly commendable.”

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