By Danielle Eden Silva
A preliminary hearing was held to see if a man should be charged with five counts from a three-car collision in Woodland.
Defendant Hector Morales was charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, child abuse, use of false documents, unlicensed driving, and reckless driving with injury. His preliminary hearing would determine whether these charges would be pursued in trial.
On January 25, 2019, a Woodland police officer responded to a call of a morning three-car collision on County Road 19. When he arrived, firefighters and medical personnel were already present. Two cars were on the eastbound side of the lane and a third car was off the shoulder of the road.
In the third car, three people were injured inside. The driver, whom the officer identified as the defendant Hector Morales, was trapped in the driver’s seat but alert and conscious. A female was in the passenger seat and surrounded by medical personnel. In the back seat, a man was lying across the back seat and unresponsive. He would be pronounced deceased at 7:10 a.m.
In the other two cars, the drivers were alone in their vehicles but with noted bodily pain. One driver, “BZ,” stated she had pain in her left arm, chest, neck, back, and shoulders. The other driver, “JS,” stated he had pain in his torso area but declined further treatment.
Both drivers were able to recount the incident. BZ stated she had been driving eastbound up the incline on Country Road 19 when the defendant’s car appeared in her lane, going westbound at about 50 to 55 miles per hour. Their vehicles collided head-on. JS shared he had been driving westbound when the defendant’s car attempted to pass him on the hill. The collision happened at the crest of the hill and one of the cars spun out of control, hitting him.
The officer took several pictures of the vehicle damage once the defendant and his passengers were out of the car. A diagram of the scene was created but no videos.
The officer called a bilingual Woodland police officer while trying to interview the injured female passenger. She needed emergency surgery and could not be interviewed but the officers then interviewed Mr. Morales.
Mr. Morales stated the female was his mother and then his wife, which the officers found her too young to be. He also originally stated there was no car in front of him but later said there was one car in front of him that he tried to pass.
The officer shared that the defendant knew Spanish but his first language was Mam, a Mayan language spoken in Guatemala. The interview was conducted in Spanish. The officers did not know if the defendant was on medication from the accident but one of them did see Mr. Morales in a medical boot.
Yolo County District Attorney Investigator Jennifer Davis would be assigned as the investigating officer. She headed the investigation, contacting Child Protective Services who were present after the accident. Ms. Davis spoke with a minor who had known Mr. Morales for several years, primarily in a village in Guatemala, and stayed with him a few days at his trailer in Woodland. The minor knew that the defendant lived with another man and a female. Ms. Davis stated the minor had been told by Mr. Morales that the female was 14 years old. The injured girl is now in Child Protective Services custody.
The court ruled that the charges of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, injuring a minor, unlicensed driving, and reckless driving with injury would be upheld. The false documents charge would be dropped by the prosecution. Arraignment is set for March 1, 2019, at 10 a.m. in Department 7.