Thursday, July 24, 2014

Family: Davis crash victim was ‘sharp’, ‘independent’

Darlene and Rudy MoralesW

Husband and wife, Rudy and Darlene Morales, pose for a photo Jan. 29 at Courtyard Skilled Nursing. Darlene died Feb. 1 after sustaining injuries in a hit-and-run accident earlier in the day. Courtesy photo

From page A1 | February 09, 2014 |

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 or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene


Discussion | 20 comments

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  • February 09, 2014 - 12:57 am

    I am glad to see how unbiased this newspaper reporter has been with all the proceedings. Especially since she failed to include some details from the bail hearing including the part where the D.A. compared an epileptic to a DUI felon. I bet millions of Americans who suffer with epilepsy would LOVE to know how they are compared by the Yolo D.A. The Epileptic foundation of America as well as the ACLU has been contacted regarding that lovely statement Amanda Zambor made.

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  • Lauren KeeneFebruary 09, 2014 - 8:49 am

    If Ms. Zambor made a specific reference to DUI, I did not hear it. Since it's apparent you were in court that morning, you can attest to the fact there was a lot of unnecessary talking going on in the courtroom audience, even though court was in session. That said, Zambor's comment above and the fact that second-degree murder charges are being considered make the DA's views of this case fairly clear. I'll be curious to learn whether the ACLU and the Epilepsy Foundation weigh in on the matter.

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  • February 09, 2014 - 2:01 pm

    Regardless of the laws, driving while being medicated for epilepsy (especially having already been involved in other seizure related car incidents) seems highly irresponsible and very at fault.

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  • February 09, 2014 - 7:41 pm

    The laws are there to be followed. So even if everything is done to the letter of the law, they are still wrong? Better hope you don't own guns, believe in gay marriage or anything that is legal. You could still be wrong. /s If Mr. Gonzalez followed the letter of the law in obtaining a legal license how is he negligent? I would place the bigger blame on the DMV.

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  • JenniferApril 14, 2014 - 4:11 pm

    Yes, I do believe it's possible to obey the law, and still be in the wrong. If my blood alcohol level is not outside the legal limit, but I know I feel light-headed, or know I have a tendency to speed, and drive somewhat recklessly after a drink, or even just when I'm stressed or agitated, isn't it still wrong for me to get behind the wheel? Or if I know this to be the case of a friend or family member, and knowingly allow them to drive, isn't that also irresponsible? I believe the same applies. If he knew he had a condition that was significant enough to need medication, and that it was not fully controlled by that medication, and had even had not one, but two previous incidents that resulted from that condition, then it was irresponsible to get behind the wheel and put others at risk. He should've called a cab, or friend or other family member for a ride.

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  • Linda VincentFebruary 10, 2014 - 8:34 am

    Bottom line..he knows he has a medical condition (allegedly) and should not be driving , he made a CHOICE to drive, he made a CHOICE to leave the scene, he made a CHOICE to try and leave the scene of the second accident he caused...think about that if it was your loved ones he involved in his poor choices and path of destruction..come on, accountability, not excuses. Do you not get that he has conveniently used that excuse more than once.

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  • February 10, 2014 - 12:41 pm

    Bottom line: He was in his legal right to drive. Diabetics have a medical condition that could cause then to have a seizure or lose consciousness while driving, does that mean they should stop driving too? He made a choice to drive, just like millions of LEGAL CA DMV license holding people do every day. IF he was in an episode, the choices were no longer his to make about fleeing the scene and trying to flee the second scene. If it was my loved one, I would be upset, but I would be more upset at the system that allowed him to continue to drive. It would be one thing if he went against the DMV and his doctors orders. It's completely separate to say that because he has epilepsy he should stop driving all together, because neither you nor I are a doctor who can make those decisions, and we are not the DMV to make those decisions either. If he has had past accidents where seizures are to blame, the DMV is notified ASAP. Did they suspend his license or tell him he couldn't drive anymore? It's not negligence if he did his due diligence after each accident to ensure his eligibility to drive. We have laws in this country to prevent tragedies. Why were none enforced? We take away guns from felons. We prevent minors from consuming liquor before 21, we tax people for smoking. We can't take someone's license away if he is a threat? Like you said, accountability. Who is more accountable? The person cleared to drive, or the agency responsible for actually allowing it to happen? Legally, he had the right. The person deciding the right should be the one on trial. And epilepsy is not a convenient excuse. If you have suffered, or know someone who suffers from epilepsy, you would know epilepsy isn't a joke, and definitely isn't something to be used as an excuse for their actions. This is a 39 year old man with NO criminal history at all. He never went around committing crimes and then saying "nope, sorry, I had epilepsy." See it for what it is without any emotions behind it: An unfortunate tragedy that could have been prevented, if the DMV had done their damn job.

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  • PamFebruary 10, 2014 - 3:22 pm

    SUCH BS to blame everyone else with the exception of the person behind the wheel that fatal day. He needs to 'MAN UP' and take responsibility for what he did. If a person has a seizure disorder and can not operate a vehicle safely, then STOP DRIVING. Learn the first time around by the mistake and do NOT repeat it.

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  • February 10, 2014 - 7:22 pm

    So do you believe that the DMV had no obligation to stop his driving? Honest question. Do you have a license to drive? Do you have restrictions? Yes? Or no? They have restrictions/revokation for a reason. We don't know the situation about that day, just what the paper published. Are you in agreement that if his license was valid to drive nothing at the time stopped him legally from driving? If he had a seizure which caused all accidents is that his fault? Did he choose to have seizures? If the DMV agrees that he isn't a danger to drive, is he to disagree? This isn't about BS, MANNING UP or STOP DRIVING. He had a privelage granted just like yourself and others based on whatever evaluations the DMV has set forth. If he was a danger it was the responsibility of the DMV to remove the danger. If you go to a restaurant and they feed you poison is it your responsibility to stop eating there and quit eating out, or is it the restaurants responsibility to stop feeding the poison?

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  • JenniferApril 14, 2014 - 4:21 pm

    It is true - his license should've been revoked after the first (and second) incident. But again, if he knew he had this condition that had already caused to accidents, he should also be responsible enough to know he's at risk of another seizure, and of injuring himself and others, if he gets behind the wheel. He needs to be responsible enough to know he's not fit to drive, even if he has a card that says he's legally allowed to.

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  • Tawny Y.February 10, 2014 - 12:47 pm

    So...The details of whether or not he should have been driving at all are between Gonzalez, his doctor, the DMV (any one of which may have been negligent), and a jury. However, he left the scene of the fatal accident, and according to the driver of the SECOND car he hit, tried to flee that one as well, but by that time had done so much damage his car was disabled. Epilepsy may be the excuse he uses for his reckless driving, but epilepsy has nothing to do with him trying to avoid the consequences of his poor decisions. For the commenter who has "contacted the ACLU and the Epileptic Foundation of America," I doubt that either organization will defend the "right to drive" (driving is a privilege, not a right), of someone who has repeatedly blamed his epilepsy for causing crashes, while taking no responsibility for the decision to get behind the wheel and drive despite the fact he has had previous seizures while driving.

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  • February 10, 2014 - 7:26 pm

    I believe the ACLU And the epilepsy contact was for the comparison of DUI offenders and seizures being compared. You choose to drink. You don't choose to have seizures.

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  • ScottFebruary 10, 2014 - 4:20 pm

    I don't see it in the story, but do we know for a fact that he has a valid license? Had it been suspended? Did he ever have a valid license?

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  • February 10, 2014 - 7:29 pm

    It isn't reported but I am sure if it wasn't valid it would have been included in the reporting. Nothing juicer than actually having negligence as proof.

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  • SADFebruary 11, 2014 - 2:13 pm

    This is a sad story. No one should be driving that has a diagnosed seizure disorder. The DMV is responsible for making sure he could not drive especially with a prior incident. As for him leaving the scene, that is inexcusable, Ms. Morales deserved better than that, he should have been the one calling 911 and staying with her until help arrived, not leaving the scene only to cause another accident.

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  • February 11, 2014 - 3:49 pm

    It is a LEGAL known fact in California... if a person has a disease which can induce seizures it is the RESPONSIBILITY of the attending physician to contact the DMV and have the individuals drivers license REVOKED!! Therefore, NO, the individual is not supposed to have driving privileges.

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  • Christine Brown-KitamuraFebruary 24, 2014 - 2:39 pm

    I will leave it to others to debate the legal and ethical decisions of an epileptic man who has caused four accidents due to seizures, flees the scenes of accidents and who admits to driving because his very pregnant wife could not, inferring he may drive with his newborn on board when his wife is unavailable. The Morales were my friends for 22 years, neighbors for 15. Darlene was so much more than a car crash statistic. She and Rudy were the Lucy and Desi couple of the neighborhood, he being tall, dark and handsome and she being the small, happy fireball by his side. They held hands and laughed together on daily bike trail walks. She'd poke about in the garden, forever changing bulbs and planning this project or that. Rudy would always be close by, smiling at her enthusiasm and quick to offer a gregarious cold drink. They loved to watch the birds on their patio. Once, when Rudy was admiring a squirrel they regularly fed, he was reminded that the forrest critters were still wild with a sharp bite on the nose. He did suffer some good natured teasing about the bandages on his strong Latin nose for some time. I'd come over and try and help straighten out a technology headache with the pictures of their trips and hear stories about their house in Mammoth, tales of raising their children, stories of her falling in love with the High School President and how popular Rudy was with the ladies--but she was the prize he landed in the end. There time together was not all sunshine. They even split up for a period until "he made an honorable woman of her again" with a second marriage/recommitment ceremony. Why was this necessary when they shared a house and children already? Darlene said it didn't. Rudy said Darlene was always his 'forever girl.' But after they were "husband and wife' again, each "secretly" told me they were so glad to have recommitted to the other "so they couldn't get away." Rudy became forgetful several years ago. I moved out of the neighborhood but stopped in from time to time and called. Darlene was determined to try and care for him as long as she could. Rudy had good days and bad. He'd always recognize me but as my babies grew up, they looked less and less like the small children he remembered and was amazed that the little girl he knew was going off to college. When Darlene was afraid to leave the house to get groceries on a bad day, I'd stop by and drop off a couple bags and she never failed to call or send a note of thanks. Even when things were bad, she remained positive and focused on the sunny side of life. She cared for Rudy far longer than her tiny frame should have been capable of but her love for him and fierce will to see him happy sustained both him and her, even as Rudy remained physically but mentally faded from her. She had a delightful wit and admitted wicked sense of humor for someone even half her age and it is hard for me to imagine I will never see this spark of joy again. For their lives to close in this way is tragic so I choose to focus on all the laughter they brought me and my family. I remember you Darlene. NOt as a victim. But as a surviver. You were a unique, feisty, wonderful woman and my friend and i was blessed to have known you. Rudy will be along shortly. May you dance together in the stars.

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  • Angie BoschApril 14, 2014 - 1:22 pm

    Christine - I am so thankful for your thoughtful comments. Darlene was my grandmother's sister and she was always such a ray of sunshine. I live in another state and am regretful I didn't get to visit them as often as I'd like. It warms my heart to hear of your memories of both Darlene and Rudy. They will always hold a very special place in my heart.

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  • JenniferApril 14, 2014 - 4:31 pm

    Yes, thank you Christine for that colorful picture into the life I got to spend so little time with. I, like my sister, wasn't in communication with Darlene and Rudy nearly as often as I'd have liked, but did always know her as a spunky, fun-loving gal with a spirit of one less than half her age, and his was just as frisky!! Funny you mention her trouble with technology and pictures! That's what she was struggling with last time I stopped through and saw them! She will be greatly missed!!

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  • Sandy WilhelmApril 14, 2014 - 4:17 pm

    I agree with most of the comments--this person was a grown adult, and this was truly a tragedy --a result of poor choices with everyone but him being the victim. I'm sorry he has this condition, but know others who have also, and they don't put others at risk. He needs to take responsibility and not make excuses. I want to know what excuse he would make if his pregnant wife were in the car when he did this? There are buses, taxi's and usually friends. I'm glad the court is taking it seriously enough to not let him out to do this again. I also want to thank those who shared their memories of my Aunt Darlene and all those at the scene of the crime who tried to help. Even though it is their job, it can't be easy to see the suffering and extreme injuries of the victims. She was the only relative left after my Mom died a couple of years ago, and we talked every week or two. I know how much she loved Rudy--the love of her life. They were both always joking and welcoming. We had gotten much closer after my Mom's passing, and was looking forward to getting to know her better, but now that has been taken away. She is in a better place now, but the thought of the last day of her life and the horrendous injuries she sustained still doesn't seem real. And poor Uncle Rudy will never understand why the love of his life simply quit coming. Somewhere inside he knows that the one constant in his life has disappeared and doesn't understand why. Thank you for whomever took this picture--it is the last one I have.

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