Man who murdered veteran during Cypress home invasion sentenced to life in prison without parole

A Houston man has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for murdering a Marine Corps veteran during a home invasion in Cypress in 2018, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Thursday.

Dwayne Ernest Wharton, 22, was convicted by a jury of capital murder earlier this week for killing Leandro Morales Jr., 47, who was home with his wife when Wharton and another man smashed through the back door in November 2018.

“A Harris County jury made the right decision in locking this brazen and violent criminal behind bars for the rest of his life,” Ogg said. “A person who breaks into a home at 11:30 a.m. on a Thursday with a loaded pistol with a laser sight obviously has bad intentions, and the consequences have to match the crime.”

Morales confronted the attackers, who police said chose the home randomly.

Morales’ wife saw the red dot from the laser sight on her husband. The other man, Bobby Joe Turner, 21, is accused of entering the home with Wharton and is also charged with capital murder. His case is pending.

Morales, who was married 26 years, served four years on active duty in the Marine Corps. His military medals and awards were mounted in a frame on the wall of his home. He served in the 2nd Tank Battalion and fought in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm.

Assistant District Attorney Garrett Moore, who prosecuted the case with ADA Cameron Calligan, chief of the Organized Crime Division, said jurors were thoughtful and deliberate in coming to the right verdict.

“We want to thank the jury for their complete attention,” Moore said. “It was clearly a weighty decision for them, and they really did their due diligence in coming to their verdict.”