Morales arrested in connection with Feb. 22 crash on Highway 10 that claimed the life of Big Lake man

Managing Editor

by Jim Boyle

Juan Carlos Garcia Morales, the man accused of running a red light and killing a 33-year-old Big Lake man on Feb. 22, has been arrested.


He was booked into the Ramsey County Jail on May 4 and was awaiting arraignment in Sherburne County for the Criminal Vehicular Homicide charge, according to Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott.
Additional charges of 2nd Degree Possession of a Controlled Substance and Persons ineligible to possess firearms are pending in Ramsey County.

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 deadly 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.

The Minnesota State Patrol discovered during its investigation, Morales, 36, of Big Lake, was driving under the influence of narcotics at the time of the crash.

A warrant complaint against Morales was filed on April 21 in Sherburne County 10th District Court in Elk River. In the complaint, the state patrol highlighted 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 Drug Task Force tipped off
Members of the Sherburne County Drug Task Force received information that Garcia-Morales, was at an apartment in the city of New Brighton. Knowing he had an active warrant for criminal vehicular homicide, members of the Sherburne County Drug Task Force and Anoka-Hennepin Task Force conducted surveillance on an apartment building located on the 2300 block of Silver Lane.

Garcia-Morales was observed exiting a building and was taken into custody without incident. Investigators located a loaded handgun and approximately 22 grams of methamphetamine on the person of Garcia-Morales.

Investigators were assisted by the New Brighton Police Department, Anoka-Hennepin Drug Task Force, and the Ramsey County Drug Task Force.

The crash
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.

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.

Barthel, who worked in the 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.

It is not clear when Morales was released from the hospital, and privacy laws prevent the Star News from getting that data.