2014 Series PART THREE The Hero And The High Speed Chase

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April 15th, 2014 The Hero And The High Speed Chase

© 2014 By Peter Lance  pdf of printed edition 

The way her father, Matt, recounted it for those in attendance at her memorial service, Mallory Rae Dies was a funny, precocious and tenacious child. The only girl in a house with two brothers, “she played a lot of Ninja Turtles and other boy games,” he said, thinking back. “Mally started putting words together by 8 months and spoke in complete sentences by her first birthday. By kindergarten she’d taught herself to read and in the fifth grade, she’d go through two ‘Goosebumps’ books a night after finishing her homework.”

“She went out for cheerleading in her freshman year in high school and made the JV squad,” Matt remembers. “She carried a heavy load of AP classes, and UCSB was her first college choice.”

When she got to Isla Vista, “Mal,” as sorority sisters called her, pledged ADPi. Her Twitter page said, “I like to party.”

“But she was such a hard worker,” says Matt, “that she took summer classes to finish a double major in history and law and society in four years.”

Mallory was 27 when she was taken off life support following the hit-and-run Dec. 6, 2013, when she was struck by a Dodge Caliber driven by Raymond Victor Morua III, a decorated Army veteran and district representative for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.

Police said his blood alcohol level was .17, more than twice the legal limit. Between dinner and 11:03 p.m. when he left The Savoy nightclub on State Street where he’d attended the Santa Barbara Independent’s annual Holiday Bash, authorities say Mr. Morua consumed no less than seven drinks, including two bourbons and six vodkas.

At 12:04 a.m., Mallory was in a legal crosswalk heading toward EOS Lounge after leaving Tonic, the club where she worked, when she was struck by Mr. Morua as he sped down the left lane on Anacapa Street near Haley Street.

The former Army E4 was later charged with gross vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of a crash.

And as was reported exclusively in part two of this series on Monday, Mr. Morua, who is represented by attorney Darryl Genis, today is expected to plead guilty to manslaughter and admit to prior convictions, which would bring a sentence of 15 years to life in state prison. He also is expected to admit violating the California Vehicle Code requirement to stop at the scene of a collision, which would mean a five-year consecutive term.

Mr. Morua would be eligible to receive a parole date after 12 years, but must serve 85 percent of his 20-year term, which means 17 years. He will also admit to allegations pertaining to great bodily injury, which makes this conviction a strike prior for California’s three-strikes law, says Mr. Genis.

But as the evidence uncovered in this investigation suggests, he might never have been charged were it not for the heroic actions of a 20-year-old house painter from Buellton who was just 9 when his own father was shot to death in a traffic dispute.

THE POINT OF IMPACT

Curtis Crispin, 24, was one of two bouncers working the sidewalk outside EOS the night of the hit-and-run. “I was dealing with an individual we’d ejected from the bar. The guy was in the street and I was telling him to get on the sidewalk,” he said in an interview.

“I saw Mallory start to cross. I actually waved at her, thinking she was someone else. I turned away for a couple of seconds to deal with this guy and the next thing I knew this red car comes roaring down south on Anacapa. He must have been doing 40. And I hear this distinct collision; the sound of a front grill hitting something. And I immediately turned and saw her body flying through the air about 20 feet.”

Images obtained from cameras outside EOS Lounge show what appears to be the point of impact. A white blur in front of the car in one image is Mallory after she’d been struck.

Another image, from less than a second later, shows the Dodge having pulled up next to her body.

“And I run up to him screaming,” recalled Mr. Crispin, referring to the driver. “I’m yelling, ‘Get the (expletive) out of your car.’ And he just stares through tinted glass, hesitating; not moving, looking down at her. So I ran around and got a partial plate number: 365. And when I ran back toward the driver’s door, he just took off. He pulled into the middle lane and ran the light on Haley (Street) almost hitting a guy. He just left her there.”

THE DESIGNATED DRIVER

Moments before the collision, Devin Ryan Shaw of Buellton was behind the wheel of his girlfriend’s gray Volkswagen Jetta at the exit for City Lot 11 in the 500 block of Anacapa Street. He was the designated driver that night for his girlfriend, Eva Pagaling, 23, and her cousin, Steffanie Colgate, 25, who’d been at a club on lower State Street.

Mr. Shaw had just paid at the parking lot kiosk when he noticed Ms. Dies and two friends emerging from the lot and getting ready to cross the street. 

“They were in front of us,” he said, “and we let them past us so they could cross. There was a cab to the left that waved them across. Mallory stepped out first and there was a kind of blur as this red car hit her and she literally flew through the air. Then the driver pulled up behind her and sat there for a second. Then he drove around her body and took off.”

At that point Mr. Shaw acted instinctively.

“He blew through the stoplight (at Haley) and I knew I couldn’t let him get away,” he said during a daytime interview in which he re-traced his movements that fateful night. “So I pulled right on Anacapa and went after him.”

“He headed south on Anacapa and instead of stopping at Gutierrez, which is one-way heading west, he blew through the stop sign. By now Eva was dialing 9-1-1. So I kept following him and he drove to the end of Anacapa which is a cul-de-sac with a small turnaround at the end by the freeway. It’s opposite the REI parking lot.”

ATTEMPTING TO HIDE

“What happened next was like right out of a movie,” he says. “He didn’t see me behind him and I kind of slowed down. So he pulled around that turnaround and then went into this gated lot across from REI. It was some kind of freight yard; deserted at that time of night and the gate was open so he drove in there and I pulled up to the entrance and we watched him as he literally stopped his car and turned off his lights.”

Mr. Shaw says he believes Mr. Morua was attempting to hide. “I think he was figuring that if I just chill here and wait a couple of hours for things to calm down; maybe spend the night, then I can beat this.” In an interview with Santa Barbara police following the incident, Ms. Colgate, who was in the back seat of the Jetta, confirmed Mr. Shaw’s account of the events.

Mr. Shaw says he decided to block the exit from the yard and wait for the police to arrive.

“I parked across the opening to that yard where he was hiding and I figured we’d wait,” he says, “When all of a sudden, he spotted us. He turned on his lights and his engine and came roaring out. So I (jammed) the car into reverse and backed up enough for him to cut in front of us. At that point, he shot across into the REI lot.”

“So I followed him. He saw us and he backed around with the rear of his car almost to the entrance of REI. I pulled up and started screaming at him. I said, ‘Hey, man, you’ve got to stop. You’ve got to go back. You can’t get away with this.’ We were like yards apart and he was staring at me through the windshield and suddenly he just peeled out. … He roared across the REI lot and took the north exit. I turned and went out the south side and as soon as I turned north I saw him blow the stop sign on Gutierrez and go left toward State (Street).” 

Mr. Shaw says he followed Mr. Morua’s Dodge Caliber west on Gutierrez Street to the light at State Street. “There was a pedestrian about to cross,” he recalls, “but Morua was in the middle lane and he just turned left south on State, blowing that light which was also red.”

TO THE BEACH AT 80 MPH

By now, he was heading under Highway 101, Mr. Shaw says. “And he must have seen me behind him because he picked up speed. He was hitting 80 miles an hour. I know, ’cause I was doing 70 or 75; about 10 car lengths behind him and he was pulling away from me.”

“He blew two more red lights on State Street” heading toward Stearns Wharf, says Mr. Shaw.

Then, with Mr. Shaw behind him in hot pursuit, Mr. Morua got to Cabrillo Boulevard and tried to make a right turn from the middle lane. Instead, according to police reports, he lost control of the Caliber and crashed into a palm tree across from the Dolphin Family Fountain at the foot of Stearns Wharf.

Mr. Shaw pulled the Jetta onto Cabrillo and parked. He jumped out and ran across to the crash scene where he says Mr. Morua was still inside. “I was yelling at him,” he says. But he wouldn’t get out of the car. “I said, ‘Hey, man, I gave you a chance to go back,’ but he wouldn’t even look at me. He just sat there behind his tinted window.”

At that point, police officers arrived. One patrol unit had brought Curtis Crispin along to try and identify the suspect. He identified the red Dodge Caliber as the vehicle that struck Mallory. Now the police ordered Mr. Morua to exit his vehicle.

“Morua got out and sat on a bench,” says Mr. Shaw, who is about 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, compared to Mr. Morua who at the time was a muscular 220. “He still wouldn’t look at me.” Asked what motivated him to stay on Mr. Morua’s tail that night, Mr. Shaw looks away and then says, “I guess I’ve got some of my Dad in me.”

Pressed for more, Mr. Shaw tells the remarkable story of being just 9, one of six children, when his father confronted a driver in the parking lot of an Albertsons in Buellton.

Wayne Shaw, 49, ran a successful family house painting business in North County. On the night of March 16, 2005, he was returning from dinner at 8:40 p.m. when his pickup truck was cut off on State Route 246 by a white van driven by Louis Calvin, 45, of Solvang.

After pulling into the parking lot at Buellton Town Center moments later, Wayne Shaw, who had followed the white van, exited his truck and started yelling, “Get out of the car right now.” But this encounter ended differently than his son’s confrontation with Raymond Morua.

According to news reports from the time, authorities say Wayne Shaw reached inside the other man’s vehicle. Mr. Calvin, a dealer at the Chumash Casino, pulled an unregistered loaded .22 pistol, which he called his “Derringer,” and fired a single shot that struck Wayne Shaw in the neck. The bullet lodged in his spine. Wayne Shaw collapsed and later died in the emergency room. 

Prosecutors filed a murder charge against Mr. Calvin, but a Superior Court judge ordered he be tried on a charge of voluntary manslaughter, ruling that evidence presented at the preliminary hearing didn’t support the murder count. At trial, Mr. Calvin claimed he’d fired in self defense. He was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 32 years to life behind bars.

Devin Shaw says his father’s death left an indelible mark on him, but on the night of Dec. 6, after seeing Mallory Dies run down and left on the street, he had to act. “I just couldn’t let this man get away,” he said. “And I believe he would have. We didn’t hear a single police siren until after the crash and I’m sure that if I hadn’t seen him go into that freight yard and hide, he would have waited it out and gotten away.”

Mr. Shaw and his girlfriend, Eva, were so affected by seeing the hit-and-run that they visited Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital as Mallory’s parents kept a vigil. They both attended her memorial service at Shoreline Park five days after she died. Asked if he’d given any thought to what might have happened that night if he encountered Raymond Morua, Mr. Shaw said, “I would have just told him that he should be ashamed. He should have gone back and admitted to what he did. He was a soldier and just like soldiers don’t leave their buddies in battle, you don’t drive away from an accident like that.”

“The way my wife Raeona and I see it,” says Matt Dies, “Devin Shaw is the one true hero in this very sad story and we know for certain that if Mally had lived and they’d met, she and Devin would have been friends for life.”

On April 23rd, Devin Shaw, Eva Pagaling and Steffanie Colgate who risked their lives to keep Mr. Morua from escaping, will be among the recipients of the Santa Barbara Police Department’s Citizen Extra Step Award, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Santa Barbara. The award honors people who “display acts of civic heroism.”

“I FELT LIKE I WAS BEING CHASED”

After the crash on Cabrillo Boulevard, according to a police report, Mr. Morua told authorities that at around 7 p.m., he parked his vehicle at the Lot 10 garage at Ortega and Anacapa streets and walked to State Street, where he went to The Savoy nightclub and attended the “Christmas party for the Independent newspaper as a representative for Lois Capps.”

He said that he “had a couple of drinks (maybe 5-6-7)” then went to a “cigar shop.” After that he told police he remembered “being at McDonald’s on Milpas.” In that statement written by hand on a blank EPAS breathalyzer form, Mr. Morua told the investigating officer, “I don’t know if I ordered food.”

But on his Bank of America Visa card, there’s a charge for $7.43 from that McDonald location at 29 Milpas St. The fast-food restaurant is eight blocks east and five south of the crash scene on Anacapa Street. At the time, it closed at midnight on Thursdays, which was the night of the Independent’s Holiday Bash.

In that statement to police, Mr. Morua offers no explanation for how he ended up leaving the garage and ultimately turning onto Anacapa Street, where he drove downtown at speeds witnesses estimated to be more than 40 mph. He told police nothing about how he struck Mallory at 12:04 a.m.; only that “after the cigar shop … I walked to where my car was parked then left, but don’t remember paying.” But in that statement, Mr. Morua said that after McDonald’s, “I heard yelling and felt I was being yelled at. I felt like I was being chased. I don’t remember why (I was) being chased.” He makes no other reference to Devin Shaw or the Volkswagen Jetta that dogged him.

RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE WRONGFUL DEATH

Video taken outside The Savoy nightclub shows that Mr. Morua visited La Aroma de Havana Cigar Lounge after he left the Independent’s holiday party at 11:03 p.m. A receipt charged to that same Visa card for $24.82 was debited at the cigar lounge at 11:19:10 p.m., just 45 minutes before the crash outside EOS Lounge.

Mr. Morua’s personal AT&T cellphone bill shows that he exchanged a series of texts with his immediate supervisor, Mollie Culver, district director for Mrs. Capps. That exchange came between 11:14 and 11:19 p.m. at the very time Mr. Morua cashed out at the cigar lounge.

In a sworn declaration, Mr. Morua insists that during his visit to La Aroma he had a conversation with Paul Weakland, a veteran with whom he’d been working via Mrs. Capps’ office to help with a claim for back benefits.

“That puts Morua on the job, very late that night,” says Robert Stoll, attorney for Mallory’s family, which has filed a claim for damages with House Speaker John Boehner.

“We don’t know precisely how long he stayed there talking with Mr. Weakland, who was a constituent,” says Mr. Stoll, “or exactly when he started to make his way the two blocks north to get his vehicle. But just 45 minutes after paying that bill at the cigar lounge, Raymond Victor Morua, district rep. for Lois Capps, was roaring down Anacapa, only to strike this young woman and leave her lying on the street with mortal wounds.”

Since Dec. 11, 2013, shortly after Mallory was declared brain dead and removed from life support at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, the Capps office has taken the position that Mr. Morua was not working for the congresswoman that night; that he took an invitation to the Holiday Bash off a desk in Mrs. Capps’ Santa Barbara office and was there on “his own volition.”

That’s the legal position taken by Mary Beth Walker, from the Office of General Counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives, which is representing Mrs. Capps and her staff.

Under historic civil damage claim principles, if Mrs. Capps prevails in making that case, Mallory’s family will have little hope of recovering any damages in a wrongful death suit because Mr. Morua, who, based on today’s expected plea, is facing imprisonment of 20 years to life and is effectively a pauper.

email: pl@peterlance.com

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