A judge has given a four-year term to a motorist who ran a red light one winter morning while high on methamphetamine and killed a Big Lake man driving to his school district job northwest of the Twin Cities.
Juan Carlos Garcia Morales, 37, of Big Lake, was convicted of criminal vehicular homicide in April for the death of 33-year-old Matthew D. Barthel on Feb. 22, 2017. Sherburne County District Judge Sheridan Hawley sentenced him Monday.
With credit for time in jail since his arrest, Garcia Morales will serve just shy of two years in prison and the balance on supervised release. The sentence also calls for him to make restitution of nearly $4,000.
An official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Tuesday that Garcia Morales has been deported at least three times for being in the United States illegally from Mexico. The agency will continue to monitor him, the official added, but any attempt to have him deported again wouldn’t happen until after he serves his sentence, if at all.
“There are truly no words that can convey the traumatic loss of my only child, [and it’s] even worse to know that the person that killed Matthew has come to America illegally,” Meryl Kottke-Barthel said in her victim impact statement during sentencing.
“At what point does the [government] have some accountability to the citizens of the U.S. in ordering deportations of illegals who are arrested, instead of releasing them to only be arrested again and again and again?”
Garcia Morales has been convicted in Minnesota at least five times in the past 10 years for driving without a valid license. He had a valid license at the time of the collision; it was restored from revocation less than six weeks before the crash.
His criminal history in the state also includes convictions for disorderly conduct, domestic assault, malicious punishment of a child and receiving stolen property.
Toxicology tests found amphetamine and methamphetamine in Garcia Morales’ blood at the time of the crash.
The collision occurred just west of Big Lake at Hwy. 10 and County Road 81 and while Barthel was about 3 miles from his job in technology support for the Monticello School District.
Then-Superintendent Jim Johnson said at the time that Barthel, who joined the district in 2013 and was married with two young children, always had a positive attitude. “When he was working he was in his element.”