Lissette Franco sits in her midtown apartment and flips through an album she found at her older sister Malena Morales’s Brampton, Ont., apartment after Morales was murdered in July 2006.
There are pictures of Malena and Henry Morales from their high school days, when the two met and fell in love, and a picture from their wedding day outside Toronto City Hall.
But at the second-degree murder trial for Morales’s husband, Henry Morales, a jury is hearing that their marriage was falling apart, and Malena Morales was planning to get a divorce.
Franco said getting to this trial is a big relief, knowing that her sister will finally get the justice she deserves.
“It feels like a very long time ago but I feel like the pain of it is still very fresh,” Franco explained, saying that the delay in getting to trial has been difficult.
Just days after Malena Morales was found strangled to death with five broken ribs, lying in the bedroom of the couple’s Brampton apartment, Henry Morales fled the country, leading to an international manhunt.
“We didn’t know where he was. He was gone. He had dropped off my nephew at his brother’s house and that was it. There was no trial of him, he was gone,” Franco said.
Charline Coulardeau, a former co-worker, testified via Zoom Thursday from France, that Malena confided in her that she was afraid because Henry had hit a wall close to her face and Malena feared he was going to hit her.
Malena’s brother, Freddy Alcivar, also testified via Zoom from Ecuador Thursday that in early 2006, Malena travelled to Ecuador with the couple’s two young children to visit. Henry joined the family later and Malena told her brother that she wanted to get a divorce.
Alcivar told the jury that one day in February 2006, Malena called him while he was at the beach and told him there was a problem. When Alcivar arrived home, he testified that she told him that Henry had assaulted her and filed a police report.
Later, after she returned to Canada in March, she emailed her brother’s daughter and asked if she could have her mother send her the police report to help her with the divorce.
Franco said a few days after her sister’s death, the family was told Morales’s car had been found at the airport.
“That’s how we knew he had taken off,” she said. “To even think he’s somewhere out there living his life — it’s infuriating.”
Franco said it was on her birthday, 14 years later in 2020, that police notified the family that Henry had been arrested.
“I got the call that he was apprehended in Mexico and it was like the best birthday of my life,” she said.
Franco said it was a “relief” to know police “never gave up” and had continued to search for Henry.
She said her sister died in a very “cruel, brutal (and) unfair way,” adding that she “deserves justice.”
Franco said it was “very uncomfortable” to see Henry in court.
“It’s also very hard that my family has to relive this,” she said. “We’re finding out more details.”
Franco said she will remember Malena as a mother, daughter and sister who was loved by everyone.
“She was somebody who, when she walked into a room, she was always smiling,” she said. “Her kindness just radiated and people just loved her and I always say she was my role model.”
Henry Morales has pleaded not guilty to the charges. The trial continues.