On Saturday, October 23, 2021, Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested 32-year-old Ernesto Lopez Morales, here in the U.S illegally from Guatemala, after a hit and run crash that a killed 5-year-old child.
According to evidence and witness statements, just before 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Morales was driving a 2005 black Chevrolet Suburban west on S.R. 60 in Mulberry at a high rate of speed and with no headlights on.
Morales drove his vehicle into the back of a 2016 gray Hyundai Elantra driven by a Plant City woman.
The Elantra was pushed more than 600 feet, and both vehicles came to a stop in the eastbound lane facing west near the intersection of Espo Drive, west of Mulberry.
When paramedics arrived on the scene, they found the 5-year-old girl deceased. The driver of the Elantra was transported to a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.
Paramedics and other witnesses saw Morales run away from the crash scene before deputies arrived, leaving his Suburban at the scene.
Deputies searched the area and Morales was located in a house where he was residing. Morales told deputies he drank six 32-ounce beers and then left his residence to go buy more. He admitted to not turning on his headlights and fleeing from the crash location. He also told deputies he left the crash because he doesn’t have insurance or a driver’s license.
A search of Morales’ driving history revealed that he does not a valid Florida Driver’s license and has never been issued a driver’s license in Florida or any other state.
Deputies obtained a warrant for a blood test, which showed Morales had a blood alcohol level of .108 grams of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. The legal threshold for DUI is 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 ml of blood.
“Morales has no regard for the law or human life, and we are going to do everything possible to hold him accountable. If he had been in Guatemala and not in the United States illegally, this beautiful little girl would still be alive today,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Morales was arrested for:
- Leaving the Scene of a Crash Involving a Death (F1)
- DUI Manslaughter (F2)
- Driving with No Driver’s License Causing Death (F3)
- Leaving the Scene of a Crash Involving Injury (F3)
- DUI Property Damage (M1)
Morales was transported to the Polk County Jail and has a $22,500 bond. Due to Morales residing in the United States illegally, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement initiated a hold on him.
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