During a jailhouse interview, the man accused of killing six people in a horrific Lodi car crash said he has no memory of the moments surrounding the incident, but is haunted by the lives that were lost nearly two months ago.
Ryan Christopher Morales, dressed in a red jumpsuit with a bandage stretching from his knee to his ankle, talked for nearly an hour. He spoke from the other side of a glass partition about his failing attempts to remember how he went from drinking shots of vodka with his father to waking up in a hospital bed, preparing to face 15 criminal charges including six counts of murder.
“It was all an accident. I’m not a murderer,” Morales said in his first media interview since he was charged with causing a crash on Oct. 22 that killed six members of a Lodi family, including a pregnant mother and her unborn child, and left a 9-year-old boy orphaned.
Morales, who today is out of wheelchair and uses crutches to move about, relived the hours leading up to the crash and the day he woke up in a Sacramento hospital bed after nearly two weeks in a medically induced coma.
He added his days and nights are spent thinking — and often crying — about the family and Eden Miranda, the family’s lone survivor.
But despite his attempts to replay that night over and over in his head, he still has no recollection of the tragic event that could leave him incarcerated for the rest of his life.
He doesn’t remember getting in a car, or driving, or the crash involving six vehicles at the intersection of Ham Lane and Vine Street.
“I don’t remember anything,” he said.
According to search warrant affidavits, Morales had a blood-alcohol level of 0.20 when he was admitted to a hospital shortly after the crash.
Officers also reported that the needle of the speedometer in the SUV Morales was driving was stuck past 100 miles per hour, which they say indicates his speed at the time of the crash.
Six people inside a Ford F-150 pickup truck involved in the collision died: Luis Miranda Ochoa, 32, Vivian Rodriguez Salgado, 31, their children Irvin Miranda, 12, Jose Luis Miranda, 6, and Stephanie Miranda, 5, and their unborn baby.
At the time of the crash, it had been nearly two months since Morales was released from San Quentin State Prison for evading police in 2012.
Morales, who is 28, has been arrested 16 times in the last 10 years, according to court records collected in a Lodi News-Sentinel special report published on Nov. 1.
But he had recently found a job as a construction worker and wanted to finally be a father to his two sons, ages 4 and 7.
“Prison changed me,” Morales said.
On the day of the crash, Morales brought home a 750 mL bottle of apple-flavored vodka to drink with his father.
“We just wanted to have a little drink,” said Morales, who added he remembers drinking roughly half a pint of vodka.
As he sat in a jail interview room, Morales looked down and shook his head before saying the last thing he remembers before blacking out is playing ping-pong with his father.
According to witnesses, Morales was talking on a cellphone while driving “faster than freeway speeds” at the time of the crash. Nearly two months later, Morales said he still couldn’t remember using his phone, or with whom he was reportedly speaking.
Today, he spends nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week locked in his cell, prohibited from wandering the halls or interacting with other inmates. He’s let out only once every two days for a shower.
The rest of his time is spent reading the Bible, James Patterson’s novel “Four Blind Mice” and Stuart Woods’ “Collateral Damage.”
On Wednesday, Morales learned that he’d continue receiving medication to treat anxiety, as well as the pain associated with his right leg — which was broken in three places — a lacerated liver and a broken rib.
Even with the medication, stress, guilt and depression keep Morales from sleeping most nights, he said.
He accepts that the majority of his remaining life could be spent in prison.
“It might be forever,” he said.
His mother, girlfriend, their son, and his priest visit him weekly.
“It makes me feel better,” he said.
But, he said, the relief is temporary. Thoughts of the Mirandas and a 9-year-old boy who will now grow up without his family are permanent.
“I’d want to apologize, and tell (Eden) that his family is not gone. They’re in heaven. Things are going to be all right,” he said.
Morales is scheduled to appear in San Joaquin County Superior Court on Monday morning. Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau declined to comment about the statements made by Morales during his interview.
Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at email@example.com.