2010-12-24 / Front Page

Sister Of DUI Crash Victim Demands Justice

By Howard Schwach
It has been nearly a year since Rockaway resident Anthony Morales died in the back seat of a car driven by Gehlert Barrios, who two weeks ago pled guilty to manslaughter, driving while intoxicated and assault.

A family photo showing Anthony Morales just prior to the accident. A family photo showing Anthony Morales just prior to the accident. Barrios was given a prison sentence of two to six years for Morales’ death in a Nassau County court.

For Morales’ sister, Melissa Morales, that was not enough.

“I have to live with never seeing my brother again, and the man who killed him will soon be back walking the streets of Far Rockaway,” she told The Wave this week. “There is something wrong with that. That’s not justice.”

Melissa says that she will remember that night for the rest of her life and that she is in therapy to try to handle her brother’s death.

In fact, she was in another automobile trying to keep up with Barrios that night, only a few minutes behind his car when he plowed into a minivan, killing her brother.

“We had all come out of the same restaurant at about 4:15 a.m.,” Morales said. “My brother said that he would ride with Barrios, but I had seen him drinking and I asked my brother not to go with him. He went anyway.”

“Barrios was driving so fast, so recklessly that we lost him a couple of times on Jamaica Avenue,” she said. “Once, we got to a red light, we pulled over next to him and I yelled for him to slow down. He told me to shut up. I yelled for my brother to get out of the car, but Barrios had started up and there was no way for Anthony to get out. I tried to tell him to put on his seatbelt.”

Morales said they lost Barrios again on the Van Wyck Expressway. One of the passengers in her car managed to connect with the cell phone of the man who was riding in the front seat of Barrios’ car.

“We just had an accident on Rockaway Turnpike,” the man said.

Nassau County prosecutors said the 21-year-old Barrios was speeding in his Nissan on Rockaway Turnpike when he crashed into a Ford van making a right turn on Rugby Road on January 30, 2009. The front seat passenger in Barrios’ car and the driver of the Ford van both suffered neck and back injuries. Barrios’ blood-alcohol content was 0.09 percent four hours after the crash; higher than the legal limit for intoxication, which is 0.08 percent.

Only Morales died as a result of the crash.

When the other car reached the accident scene, Morales ran to the car and found her brother bleeding and unresponsive.

A health care worker who works with the elderly, Morales knew the signs.

“He had no pulse, there was blood everywhere,” she said. “I knew that he was dead, but Barrios came over and said that he was fine, like he had a bump on his head.”

She is still angry at herself.

“I should have done more to get him out of the car,” she said. “I let him get killed.”

EMTs worked on Morales for fifteen minutes at the scene before he was transported to the trauma center at Jamaica Hospital. There, they worked on him for another half-hour, but to no avail.

She says that her brother’s seven-year-old daughter, Anaice, who lives with her mother, still hasn’t gotten over the loss of her father.

And, neither has she.

“I am going to every court date, every parole hearing. I am writing letters to the judge and to the prosecutors, urging them to keep him in prison,” she added. “I don’t want to see him back on the streets for myself and for his daughter.”

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