Lehigh Valley

Homicide suspect charged in plot to kill witnesses

Additional charges posted against Rene Figueroa in connection with shooting death of Yolanda Morales.

Police say prisoner conspires to kill witnesses in homicide

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - An Allentown man, who's already charged with criminal homicide stemming from a shootout in Bethlehem, has been slapped with additional charges.

Rene Figueroa, 32, is charged with shooting and killing Yolanda Morales.

Morales, police said, was caught in the crossfire when a gunfight broke out on Dec. 2, 2012, outside the Puerto Rican Beneficial Society Club on Bethlehem's south side.

Five other people were hurt.

Another man, Javier Rivera Alvardo, 38, is also charged in the shooting, but police said Figueroa fired the fatal shot.

While Figueroa was in Northampton County Prison awaiting trial, police said he made plans with another inmate to get that inmate released on bail, so he could carry out a plan to kill the witnesses in the homicide case.

According to the FBI, during the investigation, Figueroa's common law wife, Sonia Pannell, approached a confidential informant, and provided names and photos of the witnesses who were to be killed.

Officials said Pannell and the informant discussed money, and Pannell also allegedly told the informant that Figueroa had a cell phone in prison, which is how they were able to discuss the plan to kill the witnesses without being recorded. Pannell and Figueroa also reportedly discussed the plans by speaking in code.

On February 19, 2014, Pannell was arrested by the FBI and charged with solicitation to commit a crime of violence - criminal homicide.

On Thursday, Figueroa was arraigned on charges of criminal solicitation and two counts of criminal conspiracy to commit criminal homicide.

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