Hit-and-run driver charged in 5-year-old girl’s death in Polk County, sheriff says

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Polk County deputies arrested a man in a fatal hit-and-run that killed a 5-year-old girl Saturday night, according to the sheriff’s office.

“A little 5-year old beautiful baby was crushed to death,” said Sheriff Grady Judd.

A report from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said 32-year-old Ernesto Lopez Morales, an undocumented Guatemalan migrant living in Polk County, was speeding on S.R. 60 without his headlights on when he crashed his Suburban into the back of an Elantra, pushing it 600 feet.

Deputies said the driver of the Elantra survived with non-life-threatening injuries, but a 5-year-old girl died from the impact.

According to the sheriff’s office, paramedics and other bystanders saw Morales run away from the scene before law enforcement arrived. After searching the area, deputies found the suspect at a house where he was staying.

“He flees the scene and leaves the five year old and for that matter would have left the mother for dead,” said Sheriff Judd.

The sheriff’s office said Morales admitted to drinking six beers and left the home to get more alcohol. He also admitted to driving without his headlights on and running from the crash scene since he didn’t have insurance or a driver’s license.

A blood test ordered by the PCSO found that Morales had a blood alcohol level of .108, higher than the legal threshold of 0.08.

Morales now faces charges for leaving the scene of a crash involving a death, DUI manslaughter, driving with no driver’s license causing death, leaving the scene of a crash involving injury, and DUI property damage. He is currently in the Polk County Jail on a hold from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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