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Three suspects charged in 2021 fatal downtown Mitchell shooting plead guilty, revealing trigger man

"The parties went there with the intention to take money and a firearm from Ferrer-Machado. Once there, the parties got into an argument, and Luis Javier Perez-Melendez shot and killed Ferrer-Machado,” Assistant Attorney General Katie Mallery said of the downtown Mitchell shooting

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Officers with the Mitchell Police Division investigating the murder of a 38-year-old man that occurred on Dec. 9,2021 in the 500 block of North Main Street in downtown Mitchell.
Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — A trio of suspects charged for their roles in a fatal shooting at a downtown Mitchell apartment in 2021 have all pleaded guilty.

Jose Morales-Acevedo, 29, of Huron, pleaded guilty Wednesday to first-degree robbery, a charge stemming from his role in the January 9, 2021 shooting that left Adalberto Ferrer-Machado dead in his apartment on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Main Street. Prosecutors said Morales-Acevedo stole property from Ferrer-Machado inside his apartment through the use of force on the night of the homicide.

Morales-Acevedo’s guilty plea of first-degree robbery comes about a week after another, 29-year-old Luis Javier Perez-Melendez, of Mitchell, who was charged with murder. He pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter for his role in the fatal shooting.

Prior to Perez-Melendez pleading guilty to first-degree manslaughter — a Class C felony that carries a maximum sentence of up to life in prison — he and Morales-Acevedo were both facing murder charges.

Based on the evidence gathered from investigators and video surveillance footage, Assistant Attorney General Katie Mallery and Davison County State’s Attorney Jim Miskimins, the prosecuting attorneys leading the case, say it was clear Perez-Melendez committed the act of shooting and killing Ferrer-Machado.

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“Both Perez-Melendez and Morales-Acevedo were armed with a firearm. The parties went there with the intention to take money and a firearm from Ferrer-Machado. Once there, the parties got into an argument, and Luis Javier Perez-Melendez shot and killed Ferrer-Machado,” Mallery said during Wednesday’s hearing at the Davison County Public Safety Center courtroom.

Morales-Acevedo’s plea agreement he struck with state prosecutors recommends a 25-year prison sentence with 12.5 years suspended for the first-degree robbery charge, which is a Class 2 felony that carries a maximum sentence of up to 25 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

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Mitchell Police officers investigate the 500 block of North Main Street in Mitchell on Jan. 11, 2021, following the deadly shooting that occurred late Saturday night, Jan. 10, 2021.
Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic

With Morales-Acevedo and Perez-Melendez’s guilty pleas for their respective charges, it eliminates a jury trial. Instead, Judge Chris Giles will impose sentences on Morales-Acevedo and Perez-Melendez on Sept. 14.

The arrest affidavit alleged Perez-Melendez and Morales-Acevedo shot and killed Ferrer-Machado by firing rounds in his head and torso inside his apartment. Authorities said the 38-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene when officers found Ferrer-Machado lying in the hallway of an apartment complex, located at 503 ½ N. Main St., with multiple gunshot wounds.
Leading up to his guilty plea of first-degree manslaughter, Perez-Melendez denied committing the homicide and refused to cooperate with investigators.

Attorneys representing Jose Carlos Morales-Acevedo, 28 -- who was charged with first-degree murder for his alleged role in a downtown Mitchell shooting -- are arguing his Spanish language interpreter made errors in translating Miranda rights to him prior to the interrogation process, which they claim led Morales-Acevedo to waive his Miranda rights without “fully understanding the legal ramifications of it.”

When authorities brought Morales-Acevedo in for questioning shortly after the shooting, he denied being present when the murder occurred. However, he recanted his statement later on and admitted to “playing an active part in the homicide,” according to court documents. Detective Peter Arnold said he also found blood on the shoes of Morales-Acevedo during the interrogation.

Despite testimony from Detective Arnold and a Mitchell police officer stating they had conversations with Morales-Acevedo in English prior to interrogating him, Morales-Acevedo previously attempted to have his testimony with investigators thrown out based on the claim investigators did not properly read his Miranda rights in Spanish. The court ruled authorities properly read him his Miranda rights before questioning and denied the motion to suppress his statements made with investigators.

Alongside Perez-Melendez and Morales-Acevedo, Yanitza Ortiz, 23, of Mitchell, was charged for aiding and abetting the January 2021 shooting. However, she pleaded guilty in October to two felony charges — possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) and possession of a controlled substance in a drug-free zone with intent to distribute — as part of a plea agreement that dismissed the aiding and abetting charge.

Ortiz became a suspect after authorities investigated Perez-Melendez and Morales-Acevedo, which led to a search of her residence in Mitchell.

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According to an arrest affidavit, authorities uncovered 18 bags of methamphetamine in Ortiz’s residence on the west side of Mitchell, each containing 20 grams of the drug. Since her apartment, located at 200 W. Fourth St., was within 1,000 feet of a daycare, it’s considered a drug-free zone.

For the two Class 4 felony charges she pleaded guilty to, Ortiz could face a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Judge Giles said during an October 2021 hearing that Ortiz faces a mandatory minimum of six years in prison for the two drug charges.

Morales-Acevedo, Perez-Melendez and Ortiz are set to be sentenced on Sept. 14, with Judge Giles presiding over each of their cases.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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