Nick Nathaniel “Nate” Morelos pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the 1991 stabbing death of 16-year-old Shawn Cassinelli, a popular San Juan High School athlete.
Morelos was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. His name does not appear in the online roster of current state prison inmates.
The assault occurred in the early morning of July 20 as Cassinelli and two friends were walking along a dark stretch of Old Auburn Road, according to stories in The Bee. One of Cassinelli’s companions threw a bottle into the road in front of a passing car.
Morelos, then 17 years old and a passenger in the vehicle, leaped out and charged the three pedestrians, plunging a 4-inch knife into Cassinelli’s stomach. Cassinelli’s companions ran, but Cassinelli collapsed and died before aid could be summoned. The assailants climbed back in the car and drove off.
At the time of Morelos’ arrest, sheriff’s deputies said several teenagers knew the killer’s identity, but a “code of silence” protected Morelos from investigators until eight weeks after the slaying, when detectives confronted a girl who had bragged at a party that she knew who was responsible.
Richard Avalos was found guilty of being an accessory to murder by deliberately misleading sheriff’s detectives investigating the killing. He was sentenced to two years in prison.
Three other people, Marcella Gomez and two juveniles, were given 90-day sentences after pleading guilty to accessory charges.