Homicide victim's girlfriend recalls the day that everything went awry - Omaha.com
Published Monday, December 17, 2012 at 12:30 am / Updated at 1:21 pm
Homicide victim's girlfriend recalls the day that everything went awry

From time to time, Carlos Morales would walk from his auto body shop to the Super T's store down the street to pick up soda and chips.

Perhaps that's where he was, thought his longtime girlfriend, Brenda Gibler, after she tried the door at the body shop and found it unlocked.

She went inside.

The cars and tools in Morales' shop, in an industrial area near 40th and Lake Streets, were in the dark, though a light was on in the office at the back, at the top of maybe 15 steps.

Morales, 47, usually did not go in to work on Sundays, but he had an estimate to do.

On days when Gibler dropped by, she would whistle, and Morales' head would pop into view in the office window.

But not on Dec. 2.

Morales and another man, Bernardo Noriega, 40, were lying dead in the office.

Both deaths are homicides, said an Omaha police spokeswoman, though she declined to say how the men died. Police have announced no arrests.

Before she went deep into the shop that day to look for Morales, Gibler, 42, returned to her sport utility vehicle to take the keys out of the ignition. The couple's son, Alec, and a friend were waiting in the back seat. It was Alec's eighth birthday and they all were to go to Chuck E. Cheese's.

That was the plan. They needed to get going.

Gibler had phoned Morales a few times during the afternoon. He had brushed her off, said he couldn't talk.

“I'm busy, mama,” he said.

They had spent the previous night together. They had tortillas filled with eggs and cilantro for dinner. Morales and Alec watched a movie. They strung lights on a Christmas tree in the living room.

That Sunday afternoon, looking for Morales, Gibler went inside Genuine Auto Body. She climbed the stairs to the office. He was lying face up on the floor. His hands had been tied together. She touched him.

“I thought he was alive. I tried to get him to breathe,” she said in an interview. Tears welled in her eyes as she recalled it.

She did not see the other dead man, Noriega, until a few moments later, when she stepped farther into the room.

She dialed her cellphone, calling Morales by mistake. When she finally reached 911, she was coming unglued. She screamed the address, 4010 Grant, again and again, but could not be understood. Her tears made the keys of her phone wet. She stumbled down the steps and ran outside.

“He should be here right now,” she recalled, her voice breaking. “He should still be right here.”

Gibler said Morales did not use or sell drugs. She said Noriega was one of Morales' customers. Neither man had a significant criminal history in Nebraska. Morales pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in 2005 and was sentenced to serve 30 days in jail.

Morales didn't deserve this, Gibler said. He was a good man who worked hard.

Business had been slow. A few months ago, he couldn't make the rent, and the landlord padlocked the door until he scraped together the money.

Now Morales is gone.

“Carlos was all we had,” Gibler said.

She has been buoyed by Sadie Bankston, who runs a group to support the relatives and friends of homicide victims. Bankston's son was shot dead in 1989 when he was 20.

Gibler has Morales' cremated remains in a bag but has not been able to afford a memorial service.

And then there is their son. How could she explain this, she asked, as he played a video game in his bedroom down the hall.

“He asked me, 'Is my daddy dead?'” Gibler said. “I told him that daddy fell at work.”

She said he was in heaven.

Contact the writer: 402-444-3106, emerson.clarridge@owh.com

Contact the writer: Emerson Clarridge

emerson.clarridge@owh.com    |   402-444-3106    |  

Emerson Clarridge covers crime at night and in the early morning.

Easter Sunday temperatures climb into 80s in Omaha area
Omaha police investigate two nonfatal shootings
City Council to vote on adding Bluffs pedestrian safety lights
Sole big donor to Beau McCoy says he expects nothing in return
Convicted killer Nikko Jenkins might await his sentence in prison
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
Midlands runners ready for Boston Marathon
Families from area shelters treated to meal at Old Chicago
Firefighters battle brush fire near Fontenelle Forest
Sioux City riverboat casino prepares to close, still hoping to be saved
Omaha high schoolers to help canvass for Heartland 2050
Mizzou alumni aim to attract veterinary students to Henry Doorly Zoo
Grant ensures that Sioux City can start building children's museum
Party looks to 'nudge' women into public office in Iowa
For birthday, Brownell-Talbot student opts to give, not get
Two taken to hospital after fire at Benson home
Grace: Pipe organ concert a tribute to couple's enduring love
Omaha-area jails and ERs new front line in battling mental illness
Civil rights hearing to consider voting policies in Midwest
17 senators in Nebraska Legislature hit their (term) limits
It's a pursuit of pastel at Spring Lake Park's Easter egg hunt
Financial picture improving for city-owned Mid-America Center
No injuries after fire at midtown's old Mercer Mansion
29-year-old Omahan arrested for 22nd time in Lincoln
Police: Slaying of woman in Ralston apartment likely over drugs
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
A World War II veteran from Omaha will return this week to Europe to commemorate a tragedy in the run-up to D-Day.
Dickson’s Week in Review, April 13-19
On Twitter some guy tweeted that the spring game isn’t taken as seriously as a regular-season contest. What was your first clue? When the head coach entered waving a cat aloft?
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »