After clinging to life for more than five days, a 27-year-old Santa Barbara woman died Wednesday of the injuries she suffered when she was struck by an alleged DUI driver who then fled the scene of the collision.
At the direction of her family, Mallory Rae Dies was taken off life support Wednesday, and pronounced dead at 3:15 p.m., Santa Barbara police Sgt. Riley Harwood said.
Following her death, the charges against the alleged driver — Raymond Victor Morua, 32, of Santa Barbara — were re-filed, and he is now accused of murder, which is punishable by 15 years to life in prison, according to Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley.
Morua also was charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death, Dudley said.
Harwood said Morua has been rebooked on the new charges, and is being held without bail at County Jail.
Morua — a former aide to Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, and a prominent local activist on veterans issues — is to be arraigned Friday in Superior Court.
Police allege he was leaving a holiday party at a downtown nightclub when the red Dodge Caliber he was driving struck Dies just after midnight Dec. 6. Dies, who had attended UCSB and worked at Tonic Nightclub, was walking across the street in the 500 block of Anacapa Street when she was hit, police say.
Although she was not in the marked crosswalk, Harwood said, she was crossing legally because of the positioning of the street’s signalized traffic lights.
Harwood said Morua was traveling southbound “at a high rate of speed” in the right lane of the one-way street when he struck Dies, knocking her to the ground.
She sustained “significant head trauma” after hitting the pavement, he said.
Immediately after the collision, Harwood said, the driver of the vehicle stopped, looked at the victim from his car, and then sped away.
He said witnesses followed the car two blocks to where Anacapa Street dead-ends at Highway 101 where the driver stopped.
Harwood said witnesses tried to convince the man to return to the scene of collision, but he “shook his head” and drove away.
Morua allegedly turned onto East Gutierrez Street and then turned south on State Street, driving under the freeway to Cabrillo Boulevard.
“At the intersection of State and Cabrillo, he tried to turn westbound at a high rate of speed and subsequently collided with a palm tree,” Harwood said.
Police quickly arrived at the crash site near the Dolphin Fountain at the foot of Stearns Wharf.
Harwood said Morua was found to be intoxicated, and provided a breath sample that showed a blood-alcohol content of .17, more than twice the legal limit at which a driver is presumed to be drunk.
Morua, who has a history of drunken driving, initially was charged with felony DUI and hit-and-run, plus misdemeanor DUI for hitting the palm tree.
On Monday, Morua was fired from his job as Capps’ district representative, according to her press secretary, Chris Meagher.
Morua has a criminal record from both Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, including previous DUI charges and a hit-and-run charge from 2006.
The Ventura County Superior Court Records website states that Morua was found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol after an incident in July 2006.
Another DUI is listed as occurring in October of that year, with a special allegation of driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 or more, to which Morua pleaded guilty.
Records show Morua also pleaded guilty to hit-and-run and driving on a suspended license on Dec. 21, 2006.
In Santa Barbara County, court records show Morua was arrested along with a fellow employee at Kmart in Goleta, and was charged with grand theft by embezzlement for illegally using coupons to obtain merchandise for himself and friends.
He pleaded no contest to the charges.
Dudley said Morua is now being charged with what is known as a “Watson murder.”
The term is derived from a 1981 state Supreme Court case — People v. Watson — which established that, in some circumstances, a person who kills someone while driving under the influence can be charged with murder and/or manslaughter.
Typically, defendants convicted in serious DUI cases sign a statement noting the risks of driving while intoxicated, and acknowledging they can be charged with murder in future DUI cases that result in death.
That is the same charge that was filed against Lanie Tyrone Richardson, who was accused in a 2012 “car-surfing” incident in Montecito that killed one woman and seriously injured another.
Richardson eventually pleaded no contest to manslaughter and is to return to court Jan. 9, when he will be sentenced to 14 years in state prison.
Meanwhile, an online fund has been set up to help Dies’ family with its medical and other expenses. Click here for more information and to make an online donation.
Family and friends also have been posting tributes to Dies on a CaringBridge web page set up for the UC Santa Barbara graduate from Orange County.
Wednesday night, Capps’ office released a statement on Dies’ death.
“Words cannot express the sadness I feel over the death of Mallory Rae Dies,” Capps said in the statement. “This tragedy tugs at the heart of all of us in the community. It is clear that Mallory brought light into the many hearts of those who knew her.
“This senseless and avoidable tragedy is one that all of us in the Santa Barbara community will struggle with for a long time. I know firsthand what it feels like to lose a child. That anguish is something that no parent should face.
“My prayers are with her parents and all those who mourn today. I wish her, her family, and her friends peace.”
— Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.