Attorney for baby Vanessa's father seeks more time to review evidence in homicide case

A file photo of Jose Morales during a pretrial appearance on felony weapons charges in Superior Court in New Haven, Conn. on Wednesday, December 18, 2019.

A file photo of Jose Morales during a pretrial appearance on felony weapons charges in Superior Court in New Haven, Conn. on Wednesday, December 18, 2019.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

MILFORD — A year after a New Haven man was charged with killing his girlfriend in Ansonia, his defense attorney is still reviewing a trove of evidence he received from the state as the search continues for the couple’s missing daughter.

In a short hearing Thursday, Jose Morales’ attorney, Kevin Smith, said he needs to confer with prosecutors as he resolves issues accessing some of the discovery material they provided in the case.

Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney Howard Stein told Judge Peter Brown that the state had provided over 20 gigabytes of materials along with links to hours of body-worn camera footage from Ansonia police officers.

It remains unclear when Morales, who has pleaded not guilty to murder and tampering with evidence charges, will reach a resolution or go to trial. Brown continued the case to May 14.

Morales remains held on $5 million bond for the Dec. 2, 2019 death of Christine Holloway. Despite an exhaustive search, police still have not found the couple’s child, Vanessa Morales, who disappeared at the time of Holloway’s death.

Morales has not been charged with the child’s disappearance. Ansonia police remain optimistic that Vanessa will be found. Ansonia police received information last month about a toddler wandering in California, but later confirmed it was not Vanessa.

On Jan. 15, Ansonia police released an aged enhance photograph of Vanessa, who was 15 months old when she vanished.

Morales was identified early as a suspect in Holloway’s death, which was determined to be from blunt-force trauma. During an interview with investigators, Morales claimed he was in the Myrtle Avenue home when he saw men running toward the front door, police said. Morales claimed he was on PCP and was punched in the face and knocked out as he tried to call 911, police said.

Morales maintained in subsequent interviews that he had nothing to do with the killing of Holloway or the disappearance of their daughter, an arrest warrant affidavit shows.

In a final interview with investigators on Dec. 23, 2019, Morales said he would have never done anything to them because he loved Holloway and Vanessa, according to the arrest warrant affidavit. He said the person who killed Holloway would have Vanessa, the affidavit said.

Officers first went to check on Holloway around 1 p.m. on Dec. 2, 2019, after she failed to show up for work that day at Bright Morning Star Daycare. They knocked, but left after hearing no response, an arrest warrant affidavit read. Officers forced their way into the home seven hours later and found Holloway’s body.

Witness statements, surveillance cameras, cellphones and DNA evidence eventually led Ansonia detectives to charge Morales with murder, court documents show.

Neighbors told investigators they saw Morales at Holloway’s home on Myrtle Avenue, police said. Surveillance recordings were found that supported a neighbor’s claim that Morales left the Myrtle Avenue apartment about 30 minutes after officers first went to check on Holloway, according to the affidavit.

The owner of the home and his mother said they were in the three-car garage when they heard commotion coming from upstairs in the home, the affidavit read.

The owner’s mother told investigators she heard three sounds “like they were hammering something into the wall,” along with furniture being moved, the affidavit said.

Morales’ car was spotted on surveillance footage on Dec. 1, 2019 near a Kiducation donation clothing bin in Derby, police said. Workers sorting the bin in Hamden found numerous bloodstained items, including a puzzle, a children’s book, and a man’s shirt that all tested positive for Holloway’s DNA, the affidavit reads.

A $10,000 reward from the FBI is still available for anyone who can lead investigators to Vanessa or who turns her over to police. Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI New Haven hotline at 203-503-5555 or Ansonia police at 203-735-1885.