Nery Lopez Morales, a 52-year-old man in Iowa, was sentenced on Thursday, April 20th, for his 2021 killing of 42-year-old Amber Burton over a repossessed lawnmower in what Burton’s mother called “one of the most stupid reasons I have ever heard to shoot someone.”
Morales was initially charged with first-degree murder but that was decreased to voluntary manslaughter in a plea deal agreement made between him and the prosecution in February. When prosecutors reduced the first-degree murder charge to voluntary manslaughter, they said that Morales killed Burton “under circumstances which would otherwise be murder, while acting solely as the result of sudden, violent and irresistible passion resulting from serious provocation.”
Morales was sentenced to up to 50 years in prison for Burton’s killing and the other crimes he committed during the incident, first-degree burglary, intimidation with a dangerous weapon, and assault during a felony. Part of his sentencing was a mandatory minimum of 20 years before he is eligible for parole.
As background, Burton, white, and her boyfriend sold a lawnmower to Morales, Hispanic. However, he still owed her money, so Burton “repossessed” the lawnmower from Morales. Morales then drove to Burton’s house to argue with her and ended up shooting her with a shotgun.
Burton’s mother, Valerie Burton, said that her daughter was a nurse and that she was raising two children, ages 11 and 14, by herself. Valerie Burton said she is now caring for the children.
Posting about the horrific crime on Twitter after the sentencing was announced, an account that highlights these sorts of crimes, Southern Man, posted, “SENTENCED FOR KILLING NEIGHBOR OVER LAWN MOWER. Des Moines, Iowa. Nery Lopez Morales, 52, pleaded guilty to manslaughter for the 2021 killing of 42-year-old Amber Burton. Yesterday, he was sentenced for up to 50 years with a 20 year minimum before he can be paroled. The victim had repossessed a lawn mower she had sold Morales because he owed her money for it. Morales drove to Burton’s house to confront her and shot Burton once in the chest with a shotgun. Morales’ plea deal lowered the murder charges to manslaughter. He also pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary, intimidation with a dangerous weapon and assault during a felony. Burton was a nurse, a single mother and the sole provider for her two children, ages 11 and 14; her mother has taken over caring for them. Morales had to have an interpreter for the court proceedings.”
Reporting on the shocking crime at the time it occurred, KCCI reported that:
Officers found Burton’s body Sunday at a residence in the 900 block of Randolph Street after being called for reports of a dispute.
Authorities initially reported that Burton suffered a stab wound but later determined she had been shot.
A neighbor, who asked not to be identified, told KCCI they heard loud noises and screaming coming from Burton’s house.
Valerie Burton, speaking to Morales in court, said, “I understand Amber may have taken a lawnmower or some tools from you, and yes, that would make me angry, and that would be wrong of her if that happened, but this is one of the most stupid reasons I have ever heard to shoot someone.”
Amber Burton image credit: Des Moines Police Department, Morales Image credit: Polk Inmates
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