GRAPEVINE –– As the hunt for violent Florida escapee Alberto Morales continues, police and city officials from Miami-Dade say the guard he stabbed in a Grapevine parking lot is improving and was scheduled to be moved out of ICU Thursday.
Miami-Dade Deputy Police Director Juan Perez and the city's Deputy Mayor, Chip Iglesias, held a press conference in Grapevine Thursday to discuss the department's policies and shed light on what led up to the 42-year-old's escape. It's been three days since he stabbed a detective who was transporting him to Nevada and fled –– investigators still have no substantial leads as to where he is, said Grapevine Sgt. Robert Eberling.
The U.S. Marshals and both Miami and Grapevine police departments are hunting Morales, who was being returned to Nevada to serve a life sentence when he escaped. Currently, Miami has sent about 10 detectives to the area; Perez said the department is evaluating whether to send more resources.
Police have used a pair of bloodhounds to see if they could catch Morales' scent. A reward for his capture has doubled to $20,000. But authorities are still unable to pinpoint where he may be.
Morales was kicked off a flight from Miami to Nevada that had a scheduled layover in Houston. He began acting erratically, slamming his head on the seat in front of him. The pilot on the plane refused to allow him and the detectives to get back on for the final leg. So they rented a car and headed northwest to Nevada, stopping in North Texas to retrieve a third detective from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
Perez said the two detectives initially traveling with Morales arrived in the area too soon. He suspected the third detective's plane was delayed because of weather.
"They got here a couple hours ahead of time which is what caused them, like, to have to coast around the area before they got to the airport," he said. "I don't want to say exact time, an hour, two hours, they got to the area before the officer did."
Miami policy requires three detectives to travel with the felon, Perez says. It isn't out of the ordinary for detectives to transport the criminal by ground, either. However, Perez said the department will launch an internal investigation to determine what, if any, changes should happen to its policy.
"Obviously it wasn't the perfect policy because he got away, right? We do have contingencies in place to travel by ground means, the third officer was flying, that was the purpose for the stop," Perez said. "We've got to do our own investigation, look up the internal policies to see what went wrong so we could improve it."
Morales was docile in the back of the rented SUV and appeared to be sleeping, Perez said. The detectives decided to stop at a Grapevine Walmart to use the restroom. One, 28-year veteran Jaime Pardinas, remained in the car. Soon, Morales struck, stabbing him with sharpened or broken glasses. During a press conference Wednesday, a Miami-Dade sergeant described the glasses like a shiv sharpened in prison.
Pardinas was hospitalized in serious condition. Iglesias said the detective has improved and expected him to be moved out of intensive care by Thursday evening. He underwent surgery on Tuesday –– he suffered stab wounds to the neck and back along with a punctured lung in the attack, officials said.
"It could've turned worse," Iglesias said.
While authorities are staying relatively tight-lipped regarding the details of the investigation, Eberling said they've used two bloodhounds to try and catch Morales' scent. They also believe the fugitive somehow slipped out of his shackles; his hands were secured to a belly band when he escaped.
He was wearing a light-colored gray sweatshirt with dark shorts and a single shoe when he fled. Perez said he was dressed this way because airports do not allow them to transport prisoners wearing prison garb.
"Anytime an investigation has gone on this long and we haven't gotten the results we'd like to have there's a level of frustration," Eberling said. "We are getting leads that come in and we're investigating all those tips. Unfortunately, at this point, we haven't discovered a tip at this point that's given us any direction to follow."
Anyone who spots Morales or notices any suspicious activity is asked to call the Grapevine Police Department at 817.410.3200 or at 911.