by Jim Boyle
Elk River Star News Managing Editor
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Juan Carlos Garcia Morales, the man accused of running a red light and killing a 33-year-old Big Lake man who worked for Monticello Schools.
The newest discovery in the case is that Morales was driving under the influence of narcotics at the time of the crash. A complaint against the 36-year-old Big Lake man was filed on April 21 in Sherburne County 10th District Court in Elk River.
In the complaint, authorities from the Minnesota State Patrol highlight what they consider probable cause to believe Morales has committed one count of criminal vehicular homicide — operating a vehicle under any amount of a Schedule I or II controlled substance. If convicted,this could result in up to 10 years of imprisonment and a $20,000 fine.
It’s also believed that Morales committed one count of reckless driving — consciously disregarding a substantial or unjustifiable risk. This would come with a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
Sherburne County Jail records indicate as of May 1 Morales had not been taken into custody at the Sherburne County Jail in connection with the fatal crash that happened the morning of Feb. 22.
Matthew Barthel was southbound in his 2008 Mazda 3 on Sherburne County Road 81 crossing Highway 10 on a green light at the time of the crash, according to the warrant complaint. He was on his way to work in the Monticello School District.
Morales was in a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee traveling west on Highway 10 at the time. He reportedly entered the intersection on a red light, first colliding with Barthel’s car in the intersection before veering off and striking a 2011 Toyota Camry, which was stopped in the right lane of eastbound Highway 10.
According to the statement of probable cause, authorities determined through the course of the investigation and interviews of witnesses that Morales had driven through a red light.
Morales was transported to St. Cloud Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, and a search warrant was obtained by the Minnesota State Patrol for a blood draw. The results of that were sent to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which found the presence of amphetamine and methamphetamine in Morales’ blood, according to court documents.
Barthel’s air bag did not deploy. He was taken to CentraCare Health in Monticello before being pronounced dead. He died of blunt force injuries to his torso due to the crash.
Barthel, who worked in the Monticello district’s technology department, was known as the “voice of the help desk.”
The driver of a third car in the crash was Jeffrey James Mateyka, a 47-year-old Becker man. He was not injured in the crash.