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Bronx man admits to rape of woman in Astoria home

A Bronx man pleaded guilty last week to raping a woman in Astoria over the course of three hours last year after she discovered him inside her apartment, the Queens district attorney said.

Herbert Morales, 34, of 1466 Hoe Ave. in the Bronx, entered a guilty plea to charges of rape, sodomy and burglary in a hearing last Thursday before Queens Supreme Court Justice Joseph Grosso, who said he would sentence Morales to 28 years in prison on March 10, Queens DA Richard Brown said.

Morales is also expected to receive another sentence of 23 years in New York County Supreme Court for multiple burglaries and sexual assaults he admitted to committing in Manhattan, Brown said.

Police first arrested Morales on July 3, 2002 in connection with a series of burglaries in both Queens and Manhattan, Brown said. But he was later charged with rape when his DNA matched a sample from the previously unsolved sexual assault on the Astoria woman, he said.

His alleged accomplice in the burglaries, Julian Delacruz, 37, of the Bronx, is still awaiting trial on burglary charges, Brown said.

The 22-year-old rape victim first noticed something amiss when she found her cat wandering the hallway outside her Astoria apartment upon returning early from work at 11:30 a.m. May 16, 2002, sources said.

She stepped into the apartment through a damaged front door to be immediately confronted by Morales, who promised not to hurt her if she stayed quiet, sources said.

What followed was a three-hour ordeal in which he brandished a silver gun, forcing her from room to room as he collected items from her apartment, Brown said. Morales then raped and sodomized her while threatening to take her life, the DA said.

Morales also admitted to carrying out four daytime burglaries in Astoria in May and June last year, with Delacruz allegedly serving as his partner, Brown said.

Morales stole a litany of items worth tens of thousands of dollars from the apartments, including gold jewelry, cell phones, stereo equipment, thousands of dollars in cash and even a police scanner and mountain bike, according to the criminal complaint filed by the DA's office.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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