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Agustin Morales was sentenced to one year in jail on Feb. 27 for misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. File photo by Jared Whitlock
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Driver who hit, killed toddler sentenced

VISTA — The driver who struck and killed 3-year-old Juan Ruiz was sentenced to one year in jail on Feb. 27 at the Vista Courthouse.

Agustin Morales pleaded guilty to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.

On the morning of Nov. 1, 2013 Juan was walking on the sidewalk along Encinitas Boulevard with his mother, who was pushing Juan’s sibling in a stroller.

Morales’ car hit Juan when turning westbound onto Encinitas Boulevard from the Essex Heights Apartments driveway.

Juan was pinned underneath the car. Morales and a witness pulled him out from underneath the vehicle. Juan was pronounced dead en route to the hospital.

Morales drove negligently at the time of the accident, said Deputy District Attorney Stephen Marquardt several days after the sentencing hearing. Morales failed to come to a complete stop and look both ways before turning, he added.

Immediately following Juan’s death, officials labeled the case an accident, and didn’t arrest Morales then.

However, law enforcement officials conducted subsequent witness interviews and reviewed video surveillance. They then came to the conclusion that Morales should have seen Juan.

Based on the evidence, the district attorney’s office sought the maximum penalty of one year in jail for a misdemeanor.

Morales pleaded not guilty during his Nov. 7 arraignment to counts of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, presenting false identification to an officer and driving without a license.

The two latter counts were dropped as part of his plea agreement. Morales was also originally booked on suspicion of drunken driving. However, that charge was dropped because Morales registered .029 percent on a preliminary alcohol-screening device, which is below the blood-alcohol limit of .08 percent.