In a highly emotional sentencing hearing in a San Diego courtroom Thursday, two distraught parents spoke directly at the driver who killed their 3-year-old son, begging a judge for justice for their little boy.
Between sobs, Juan Ruiz Sr., father of little Juan Andres Ruiz, who was fatally struck by car in Encinitas on Nov. 1, 2013, spoke in court about the pain of losing his son. As he spoke, he looked directly Agustin Morales, the man who was behind the wheel of the car on that tragic day.
“This man basically killed me. He took my son’s life,” said Juan, speaking through a translator. “All I ask for is that justice be done.”
The boy’s mother, Zenaida Ruiz, also said a few words to Morales, who kept his head hung low.
“It’s not easy to be here, looking at the man who killed my son,” said the mother.
The parents described their beloved son as a kind, loving, smart and respectful little boy. In a letter written by Juan Andres’ teacher, the child was also described as joyful.
Morales pleaded guilty to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter for his role in the deadly accident. Per his plea agreement, he was given the maximum sentence: one year behind bars.
According to prosecutors, Morales was rushing to work on the day of the accident.
Little Juan Andres was walking alongside his mother, who was pushing a stroller carrying her baby, in the 400-block of Encinitas Boulevard. The family was on the way to the bus stop, preparing to take Juan Andres to school for the day when Morales’ car struck the boy.
Juan Andres became pinned underneath Morales’ vehicle, sustaining critical injuries, and died en route to the hospital. The mother and her other child were not harmed.
Morales was arrested on four misdemeanor charges in connection with the deadly accident, including one count of vehicular manslaughter, two counts of giving false information and one count of driving without a license. He pleaded not guilty to all charges on Nov. 7, 2013.
With his guilty plea agreement, however, those latter counts were dropped and he was sentenced on the vehicular manslaughter charge.
In an interview with NBC 7 just one week after the tragedy, the boy’s parents mourned over the fact that their son’s life was cut so short.
“Everyone who’s a parent, they understand the pain we’re going through,” said Juan.
“Even if [Morales] is in jail, or in prison, [our] son is not going to come back,” said Zenaida, overcome with grief. “We are in pain. This is very hard.”
In that interview, the mother said Morales allegedly rolled past a stop sign, into the 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. “He was going too fast.”