The parents of a little boy who was struck and killed in a tragic accident in Encinitas opened up to NBC 7 San Diego Thursday about the toddler’s untimely death.
“Everyone who’s a parent, they understand the pain we’re going through,” he added, speaking through a translator.
“Even if [Morales] is in jail, or in prison, [our] son is not going to come back,” said mother Zenaida Ruiz, overcome with emotion. “We are in pain. This is very hard.”
On Thursday, Morales faced a judge in a Vista courtroom and pleaded not guilty to four misdemeanor charges in connection with the deadly accident, including one count of vehicular manslaughter, two counts of giving false information to authorities and one count of driving without a license.
The toddler’s parents did not attend Morales’ arraignment. They said they simply couldn’t bring themselves to come face-to-face with the man accused of cutting their young son’s life short.
Although officials initially believed Morales had possibly been driving under the influence on the day of the crash, no DUI charges were filed against him Thursday because officials said his blood-alcohol level was .029, well below the legal limit.
Little Juan Andres was walking alongside his mother, who was pushing a stroller carrying her other baby, when the accident occurred in the 400-block of Encinitas Boulevard.
Zenaida had been on her way to the bus stop, preparing to take Juan Andres to school for the day. The boy became pinned underneath Morales’ vehicle, sustaining critical injuries, and died en route to the hospital.
Zenaida and her other child were not harmed, though she said the vehicle also lightly hit the stroller.
According to Zenaida, Morales allegedly rolled past a stop sign, into a bike lane, and didn’t realize his car was on top of Juan Andres until she told him he had struck her son.
“If he would have stopped at the stop sign, this never would have happened,” said Zenaida between tears. “He was going too fast.”
The mother said her toddler did not dart out in front of the moving vehicle, as officials reported.
On Wednesday, deputies announced that Morales would face charges in the deadly collision. On Thursday, a deputy district attorney and Morales’ lawyer said that while Morales was a negligent driver, the collision was an accident, meaning he faces misdemeanor charges, not felony counts.
NBC 7 asked Zenaida if she was angry at the driver. The mother said not being able to do anything to save her son was very difficult, and right now, she’s “a little angry at everything.”
Although Juan Andres lived a very short life, his parents said he made an indelible mark on their hearts.
The parents described their son as a happy, respectful, smart and loving boy who enjoyed going to school and was excited about learning more words in English.
“He was a very happy little boy. He always took care of his little brother; he loved him a lot,” said Zenaida. “He always said, ‘Mommy, I love you very much,’ and I kissed him and hugged him.
Juan Ruiz Sr. said that what he’ll miss most about his son is being able to hug and kiss him, and tell him that he loves him every day.
A judge set Morales’ bail at $75,000. If convicted, Morales faces a maximum of two-and-a-half years behind bars. He’s scheduled to appear in court again Dec. 3.