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Raymond Morua Sentenced to 20 Years to Life in Prison for Hit-and-Run Death of Mallory Dies

Former aide to Rep. Lois Capps pleaded guilty to DUI and other charges

Gone were the captivating 1,000-watt smiles, spirited hugs and dreams of attending graduate school to become a history professor.

Lost, too, was the promising career of a military veteran trying to readjust to civilian life and become a positive fixture in the Santa Barbara community — both because of a decision to drink and drive last December.

Mallory Rae Dies’ memory will forever live on, however, along with the hope that the 27-year-old beloved local bartender did not die in vain.

That sentiment was shared by both sides of the unfortunate incident on Wednesday, during an emotional hearing that concluded with Raymond Morua being sentenced to spend 20 years to life in prison for manslaughter, hit-and-run and other charges.

The judgment came down in Santa Barbara Superior Court about a month after Morua, a former aide to Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, accepted a deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to charges that he was driving while intoxicated when he struck Dies as she was crossing the street on Dec. 6, 2013, in downtown Santa Barbara.

Dies was taken off life support five days after suffering massive head injuries.

According to Santa Barbara police, Morua's blood-alcohol level at the time was 0.17 percent — more than twice the legal limit at which a driver is considered drunk.

Friends and family of Dies and Morua crowded into a Santa Barbara courtroom Wednesday for sentencing, both sides acknowledging an awful event that forever changed the lives of many.

Last month, Morua pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, a felony, and to causing great bodily injury, as well as acknowledging his prior DUI convictions in Ventura.

He also admitted to a special allegation of fleeing the scene after the crime, which carried a penalty of an additional five consecutive years in prison.

Prosecutors have said Morua would spend at least 10 years in prison before he’s eligible for parole. Morua's attorney, Darryl Genis, estimated he would serve at least 17.

Mallory’s father, Matt Dies, addressed the court with a photo slideshow, telling the story of a strong-willed middle child who loved her two brothers, animals and reading.

Mallory was her grandfather’s “little princess,” a cheerleader, brain and friend to all.

“God, she’s beautiful,” Matt Dies said, staring at a picture of her smiling.

“This is after all the horrible things happened,” he added, looking at a picture of himself posing with his daughter’s friends during a fundraising event for a foundation in her name.

Ryan Todey, Mallory’s best friend and Tonic coworker, recounted his walk home with her that night, the last time he got a “classic Mallory hug” — a full sprint, jump and leg wrap-around squeeze.

“She is a once in a lifetime person,” Todey said. “There’s not one person that I know, or will ever know, that will create such an overwhelming response to a tragedy.”

Mallory’s mother, Raeona Dies, said she has been in shock each day since, either completely numb or consumed by grief.

Morua’s girlfriend, Teresa Montoya, read a letter from a soldier who served with Morua in Iraq.

Her voice breaking, Montoya recounted how soldiers don’t receive proper transitional resources upon return to civilian life, oftentimes turning to alcohol to self-medicate.

“I don’t want us to forget Mallory,” she said. “This is just one example of so many problems that are facing our society.”

Morua’s brother-in-law, Juan Jiminez, commended Matt Dies for how he’s carried himself since the tragedy, calling him a role model.

Jiminez said he, too, suffers from PTSD symptoms as a veteran but is two-months sober.

As part of his plea, Morua wrote a formal apology to the Dies family, and bowed his head to read it.

Morua said he felt ashamed and disgraced for his cowardly and reckless actions.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t pray and wish that the accident never happened,” he said. “I would trade places with her at a moment’s notice. From the bottom of my heart, I’m deeply sorry. I wish there were more words to describe how apologetic I am.”

As the Dies’ family wiped tears, Morua said he was ready to do everything to raise awareness for drunken driving, alluding to a part of his plea requiring participation in an anti-DUI video.

Morua said he was disappointed in Capps for denying he was on the job the night of the accident, likening that cowardly action to his own.

“The torment I feel for the loss of Mallory’s life will be with me for the rest of my days,” he said. “You all deserve better from me, and I will do better. I am deeply sorry.”

Senior Deputy District Attorney Arnie Tolks asked Judge James Voysey to sentence according to the plea, and Voysey complied.

“I think everybody in this room has been greatly affected by what Mr. Morua did,” Voysey said. “Driving under the influence creates such tragedies in this community.”

Voysey ordered Morua to pay more than $14,000 in restitution to family members and for his crimes, crediting him with 348 days already served in jail.

Outside the courtroom, Matt Dies said his heart was torn, realizing a need to raise awareness for drunken driving and for more PTSD resources.

“I think he’s actually a good person who did a horrible thing,” he said, noting relief at hearing Morua mention Capps — who has yet to contact the Dies family.

The focus now is spreading Mallory’s smile to make an even larger impact, he said, one that lasts long after she’s been gone.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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