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Local restaurant owner jailed in hit-and-run crash

UPDATED: Mon., Jan. 23, 2012

A chef and restaurant owner being sought by police in connection with a hit-and-run crash that led to a Sunday manhunt involving a sheriff’s helicopter has turned himself in.

Ryan Michael Morales, owner of Herbal Essence Cafe, was booked into the Spokane County Jail on felony charges of hit-and-run and three counts of vehicular assault. His bond was set at $5,000 during a first appearance Monday in Spokane County Superior Court.

Morales, 32, is accused of fleeing the scene of a two-car crash at East Everett Avenue and North Standard Street.

Police arrived about 1 a.m. to find Morales’ white GMC truck sideways in the street with an overturned Subaru nearby. Medics cut a passenger, Kayla Catalano, from the Subaru and transported her to a hospital with broken bones.

The Subaru’s driver, Grant DeBeaumont, was outside the vehicle bleeding heavily from his head. He and another passenger, Jessica Kitterman, also were transported to a hospital.

Police say the front-end of Morale’s truck was destroyed when it crashed into the driver’s side of the Subaru at a high-rate of speed in the snow and ice-covered intersection.

The speed limit in the area is 25 mph, but officers say extensive damage to both vehicles indicates the truck was being driven much faster.

Officers believe the truck was northbound on Standard and the Subaru was eastbound on Everett. They found a small amount of blood near the driver’s side door of the truck they believe came from an injury in the crash.

Police closed the intersection and used a dog and helicopter to search for the driver, but they announced later that morning that he likely had fled the scene because he was last seen walking and talking on his cellphone.

Police determined the truck was registered to Morales, who they say matches the description of the driver witnesses said fled the crash.

Officer Michael Russo contacted Morales’ wife, Ashley Morales, who said her husband drove the truck to work and was supposed to be on his way home.

Morales turned himself in Sunday night at the Spokane County Jail. Police noted scrapes and cuts on his shins, knees and hand that they say are consistent with the crash.

DeBeaumont was hospitalized with a broken collar bone, fluid in his lungs and a head cut. Catalano broke a collar bone, fractured her pelvis, cracked her tail bone and suffered a partially collapsed lung. She was to have surgery Monday, according to police.

Kitterman did not break bones in the crash but was extremely sore and temporarily immobile, police say.

Morales’ defense attorney Carl Hueber said the cafe he owns in downtown Spokane employs four people. Morales has a juvenile criminal history and a felony conviction in 2008 for attempting to elude a police officer. He was sentenced to 75 days in jail with 30 days converted to 240 hours of community service.

Judge Annette Plese cited the felony conviction when imposing $5,000 bond. Morales’ next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 7.

Morales has owned Herbal Essence on North Washington Street in downtown Spokane since at least 2006. He was given the bronze award for local chef of the year from Spokane-Coeur d’Alene Living Magazine last year.

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