The Santa Barbara County District Attorney confirmed the death of Mallory Rae Dies Wednesday afternoon, five days after being critically injured in a hit-and-run in downtown Santa Barbara.
District Attorney Joyce Dudley tells NewsChannel 3 that a murder complaint has been filed against the driver involved, Raymond Morua, an Iraq War veteran and, at the time of the accident, an aide to U.S. Rep. Lois Capps. He was fired that weekend.
Dudley said this is a “Watson Murder,” a second-degree murder charge with implied malice.
California’s Watson Murder Rule began with a case called People v. Watson, in which a DUI offender with a prior DUI record knows that driving under the influence poses a danger to human life, but does it anyway.
The accident happened just after midnight on Dec. 6 when 27-year-old Dies was legally crossing Anacapa Street with a group of friends. It is unclear whether she’d been working at her bartender job at Tonic, a popular nightclub nearby.
Police say Morua went around a taxi prior to the accident. “After he struck the victim, he went southbound on Anacapa Street,” Police Sgt. Mike McGrew told NewsChannel 3 later that day. “It’s a dead end and citizens pursued him and they stopped him and advised him he hit someone. He basically shook his head and said he wasn’t going back and took off at a high rate of speed.”
Morua was arrested a short time later after crashing his Dodge Caliber SUV into a palm tree on Cabrillo Boulevard.
Police say his blood alcohol level was .17 — more than twice the legal limit.
Capps released a statement after hearing that Dies had passed away: “Words cannot express the sadness I feel over the death of Mallory Rae Dies. 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.”
The District Attorney’s Office will now charge Morua with murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death.
The Santa Barbara Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office will also seek to increase his bail amount to a no-bail status.
Morua is expected to appear in Santa Barbara Superior Court on Friday.
A similar Watson Murder Rule case led to the conviction of Ashley Johnigan in 2009. Johnigan was sentenced to 15-years-to-life for the head-on DUI collision that killed Laura Cleaves, who was an investigator with the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office at the time of her death.