ESCONDIDO — A Nevada man convicted of a three-decades-old murder was sentenced immediately to prison following his guilty plea Dec. 3 in a Vista Superior Court.
Nearly a year to the day of his arrest, 59-year-old Michael Keith Moon pleaded guilty to second degree murder in connection with the 1977 death of Liborio Landin-Vallin, a 24-year-old undocumented migrant worker, in the burgeoning Escondido suburbs.
Moon received eight years in prison for the murder, Deputy District Attorney Brock Arstill said. The prosecutor said Moon’s sentence was in accordance with the state’s 1977 sentencing guidelines.
At the time of his Dec. 12, 2007, arrest in Reno, Nev., Moon had been on life-time parole for the 1978 slaying of a Nevada woman, according to court documents. Following his parole in 1990, Moon was arrested within two years in Illinois for attempted murder after he stabbed a man more than a dozen times. He served nine years on a 20-year sentence and was released in 2000, court records state.
The conviction marks the end of a 31-year-old cold case, which the newly formed Escondido Cold Case Homicide Team broke open last year.
Landin-Vallin’s half-naked body was discovered in a pool of blood around 3:15 a.m. May 1, 1977, on the concrete garage floor of an unoccupied residence in the 600 block of Falconer Road in group of tract homes that were being built, according to court documents.
His cousin Gabriel Landin, who now lives near Aguascaliente in Mexico, and another co-worker, Fernando Varona, said they were at the Pastime Club when the victim began playing pool with a white male that fit Moon’s description at the time, according to a court affidavit filed by Detective Charles Gaylor.
In 1977, Varona told police that the white male gave him, Landin-Vallin and another co-worker a ride to the latter’s house where Varona helped the man inside, Gaylor wrote. He said when he returned to where the yellow van had been parked it was gone, along with the victim and white male, the detective wrote.
During an interview last October, Moon told police he lived in Escondido on Oak Hill Drive in 1977, Gaylor wrote. Oak Hill Drive, located approximately one mile from the crime scene, bisects the construction site where Landin-Vallin was murdered, according to the affidavit. Moon, a construction framer at the time, said he used to frequent the Pastime Bar, which had been owned by his former common-law wife’s aunt, the detective wrote.
The four-person team, consisting of current and retired law enforcement agents, got the definitive break in the case when photographs of partial bloody prints taken from the crime scene were identified as belonging to Moon, said Lt. Bob Benton, a spokesperson for the Escondido Police Department.
The aforementioned photographs, as well as crime scene photos, were the only evidence that remained in the case, Gaylor wrote. All of the other evidence had been destroyed years ago after rodents had eaten and defecated in the evidence, he wrote.
Moon’s conviction is the first for the Cold Case Team, which formed in May 2007 at the request of Chief Jim Maher, Benton said. Additionally, the case was also one of the oldest homicide prosecutions ever taken in San Diego County, he said.