Police and court records show that the man charged in a DUI hit-and-run Friday morning that left a 27-year-old woman in critical condition had been arrested in recent years for two prior DUIs, a previous hit-and-run, driving with a suspended license, and grand theft.
Raymond Morua, a district representative for Congresswoman Lois Capps for two years until he was terminated from his position on Sunday, is being held in Santa Barbara County Jail on $250,000 bail.
According to police, Morua, 32, was driving down the 500 block of Anacapa Street just after midnight when he hit Mallory Rae Dies, who was crossing on foot. After the collision, Morua reportedly stopped his car, looked back, then drove two blocks ahead until he got to the end of Anacapa. There, police said, witnesses tried to convince him to return to the scene, but he again drove off, speeding down Cabrillo Boulevard until he lost control and crashed into a tree, where he was arrested. Morua’s blood-alcohol level at the time reportedly measured 0.17, more than twice the legal limit.
Dies was admitted to Cottage Hospital with severe head injuries. While her condition was initially described as extremely grave, friends and supporters have reported that Dies — a UCSB graduate and Tonic Nightclub employee well-loved throughout the community — has shown signs of improvement. Tonic closed Friday night on her behalf, and words of encouragement for Dies and her family continue to flood social media sites and this CaringBridge webpage.
Morua, according to Ventura County court records, was arrested in June 2006 for DUI. He pleaded no contest. Five months later in October 2006, he was again arrested for DUI, this time pleading guilty to the charge and admitting to a prior drunk driving offense. In December 2006, Morua was arrested for hit-and-run. He pleaded guilty to that charge and a separate charge of driving on a suspended license. (The details surrounding these incidents are not yet known, as requests for information made over the weekend to the Ventura court system have not been processed.)
In December 2010, Morua was sentenced to 10 days in Santa Barbara County Jail and three years of probation after he pleaded guilty to grand theft by embezzlement. According to Senior Deputy District Attorney Brian Cota, who prosecuted the case, Morua and co-defendant Crisostomo Lejano were employees of the Kmart in Goleta at the time.
They discovered a loophole in the store’s coupon system that allowed them to re-use vouchers already redeemed by customers. Rather than process the coupons, Cota explained, Morua and Lejano would give them to friends to buy video games and other items the pair would then keep. In addition to his probation conditions and jail sentence — which he served in September 2011 — Morua was ordered to pay restitution to Kmart.
Between that case and last Friday’s incident, Morua appears to have kept his record clean. A Ventura County native and Iraq War veteran who served in the U.S. Army for more than three years beginning in 2001, Morua became heavily involved in veteran’s affairs and graduated from UCSB last year. He was president of UCSB’s Student Veteran Organization, was elected secretary of the Student Veterans of America National Leadership Council, and served as board chair for Future Leaders of America.
Morua is currently a non-voting member of the Veterans Coordinating Council and sits on the Veteran’s Services Advisory Committee. As a champion of veterans rights and an advocate for resources for recovery, Morua has talked openly about the difficulties of readjusting to civilian life. In a December 2012 Noozhawk article, he said he turned to alcohol at times as a coping mechanism.
Morua — placed on non-paid administrative leave the day the accident occurred — started working with Lois Capps’s office as an intern in June 2011. He was hired as a district representative in October 2011, said Capps spokesperson Chris Meagher, explaining that as a Santa Barbara point person, Morua stood in for the Congresswoman at meetings and events. Morua also coordinated with federal, state, and local agencies throughout the Central Coast, acting as a general liaison with members of area governments.
As one of Capps’s five district representatives, and one of 18 people on her office’s current payroll, Morua was paid approximately $36,000 a year. According to quarterly statements from the House of Representatives, he was regularly reimbursed for “private auto mileage” expenses.
Meagher said Capps’s office follows House procedures in its hiring practices. It screens potential staff members through interviews and references, but does not routinely conduct criminal background checks.
Morua’s arraignment date has not been set. Attempts to reach him have not been successful. As of press time, he had not secured an attorney.
[UPDATE, 2:00 p.m.]: Capps spokesperson Chris Meagher issued this statement Monday afternoon: “Raymond Morua is no longer an employee in the office of Rep. Lois Capps. While Raymond excelled in his duties as a district representative and was valued member of the staff, his actions that led to this tragedy are inexcusable. The congresswoman expects all those who work for her and on behalf of the people of the Central Coast to behave responsibly and professionally at all times.
“The office follows House procedures and potential staff are vetted through a standard process of interviews and reference checks, however the office does not as a routine matter perform criminal background checks. We have undertaken a review of hiring procedures, and we are working with the Sergeant at Arms of the U.S House of Representatives to review our protocol.
“During this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers remain with the victim as well as her family and friends.”