A 63-year-old Vancouver man was sentenced Wednesday in Clark County Superior Court to 12 years in prison for striking and killing a man who was crossing a Washougal road in September 2018.
Michael Evan Ross-Morales was convicted of vehicular homicide, hit-and-run involving a death and second-degree driving with a suspended license in November following a jury trial. Jurors reached their decision after roughly a day of deliberations.
Judge Bernard Veljacic accepted the prosecution’s recommendation to sentence Ross-Morales above the standard range for his crimes, due to his criminal history and the requirement the judge take the jury’s decision as the truth of what happened.
During his remarks to the court, Ross-Morales maintained that he was not driving the vehicle that struck and killed 65-year-old Michael Simmelink.
“I watched the video (of the crash) and do not believe anyone could have avoided the crash. … I feel bad. He was right near my age,” Ross-Morales said.
Veljacic said Ross-Morales’ criminal record includes numerous convictions, including hit-and-run of an occupied vehicle in 2016; at least two cases involving methamphetamine possession; and 14 cases of first-degree driving with a suspended license.
According to an affidavit of probable cause, Ross-Morales borrowed a Hyundai Accent belonging to his roommate, Dean Miesbauer, on the afternoon of Sept. 30, 2018, to deliver legal paperwork to a Camas residence.
Around 8:20 p.m., Washougal police were dispatched to a crash involving a pedestrian near the corner of Washougal River Road and E Street.
Witnesses said a car was speeding south on Washougal River Road toward the intersection of E Street. Simmelink was crossing the road with a walker from east to west, close to the entrance of a gas station. Surveillance video from the gas station captured the speeding vehicle, the affidavit says.
“The vehicle struck the pedestrian, throwing him violently into the air and landing him in the parking lot of the gas station several feet away from the impact location,” the affidavit reads.
Investigators said the car’s brake lights briefly illuminated, but the driver did not stop to help Simmelink or call 911. Simmelink was taken to a hospital but died of his injuries Oct. 7, 2018.
Miesbauer and another man picked up Ross-Morales after the crash on Crown Road in Camas. Miesbauer had called police about 10:30 p.m. and said his Hyundai had been stolen while Ross-Morales was using it. Ross-Morales told police a “young kid got in the car and drove off,” according to the affidavit.
The missing Hyundai was located a day after the crash on Southeast Strong Avenue, near Crown Road in Camas, with damage to the windshield and bumper. DNA belonging to Simmelink was taken from the windshield. Additional DNA evidence taken from the vehicle’s gear shift came back as a match to Ross-Morales, the affidavit says.
Ross-Morales has been in custody since May 2019 and will receive credit for the time he’s spent in the Clark County Jail.
Diann Williams-Welsh, Simmelink’s sister, told the court that just because her brother was homeless, does not mean he lacked family who loved and cared for him. She said Simmelink often chose to be homeless, returning to the county to live outside, because he loved the natural beauty of the area and its “crazy weather.”
Simmelink served in the Vietnam War at the age of 17, Williams-Welsh said, noting that she suspects he witnessed many horrible events that would likely explain his life choices.
“He would still be here if not for (Ross-Morales’) negligent actions,” she said.