Three days before she lost her life in a Davis vehicle crash, Ruth Darlene Morales placed her husband of more than six decades in a local skilled nursing facility.
Each day, Morales — who preferred to be called Darlene — made the drive from her longtime home in Vacaville to the Courtyard Healthcare Center to be at the side of husband Rudy Morales, who according to family members is in the advanced stages of dementia.
“She wanted to see him every day,” said her daughter-in-law, Lucia Morales. “She honestly didn’t want him there by himself one minute of the day.”
Darlene Morales was driving on East Covell Boulevard following her Saturday visit when, authorities said, her car was struck by another westbound vehicle traveling an estimated 70 to 80 mph, more than twice the street’s posted speed limit.
The impact caused Morales’ Chevy Malibu to veer off the roadway and strike a metal pole before coming to rest against a tree, resulting in fatal injuries to the mother of two and grandmother of five. She had celebrated her 85th birthday just the day before.
However, “she was too stubborn to get old,” said Bob Morales, the victim’s son. He said his mother was an active woman and cared for her husband for more than a year while his health declined, yet still managed their household without missing a beat.
“She was very sharp, very independent, and she liked to be happy,” he said.
On Friday, four of Morales’ relatives attended a bail hearing in Yolo Superior Court for Armando Arias Gonzalez Jr., the 39-year-old Woodland man accused of causing the crash that killed Morales, as well as a second collision minutes later at Covell and Pole Line Road that left a Davis mother and daughter with minor injuries.
Gonzalez has pleaded not guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter and hit-and-run charges.
His attorney, Clemente Jimenez, told Judge Paul Richardson that his client is epileptic and suffers from occasional seizures, and that “his medical condition has a lot to do with the current situation.” Neither drugs nor alcohol were factors in the crashes, he has said previously.
Jimenez said Gonzalez manages his epilepsy with medication but typically leaves the driving to his wife. However, she is nine months pregnant and currently under a doctor’s orders not to drive.
The defense attorney asked Richardson to reduce Gonzalez’s bail from $100,000 to $40,000, saying his client has extensive Yolo County ties and poses neither a flight risk nor a public safety threat. He also asked that, if unable to post bail, Gonzalez be granted a weeklong release to attend his child’s birth.
But the case’s prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Amanda Zambor, opposed both requests. She said a flight risk exists because Gonzalez allegedly left the scene of the fatal crash and, had his car not been disabled, may have fled from the second collision as well.
Zambor also said Gonzalez was involved in two prior crashes, in 2010 and 2011, at least one of which also was blamed on a seizure.
“He knows the risks and continues to drive and put other people in danger,” Zambor said, adding that the current case could be amended to charge Gonzalez with second-degree murder upon further review of his medical records and DMV history.
Richardson denied both the bail reduction and Gonzalez’s release for his child’s birth, a ruling that Morales’ family praised but thought could have gone a step further.
“We wanted him to raise (the bail),” Bob Morales said.
Gonzalez is due back in court March 7 for a preliminary hearing.
— Reach Lauren Keene at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene