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Preliminary hearing for Dylan Morse rescheduled

SANTA ROSA -- A preliminary hearing in the case of vehicular manslaughter suspect Dylan Morse has been rescheduled until May 22, delaying the case for another month.

Attorneys on both sides asked Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Gnoss on Tuesday to reschedule the hearing, mainly because they are awaiting hospital records and blood test results in the case, according to Chris Andrian, Morse's attorney.

A readiness conference in the case is scheduled to take place on May 13.

On Tuesday, prosecutors also filed an amended complaint in the case, adding a new charge of misdemeanor marijuana possession. Morse pleaded not guilty to the new charge.

The new charge was added because California Highway Patrol investigators reported finding a small amount of marijuana in Morse's car during a routine inventory, prior to it being towed, according to Jonathan Sloat, CHP spokesman.

Investigators also found rolling papers in the car, along with the small quantity of marijuana, according to Sonoma County Deputy District Attorney Robert Waner.

Morse, the son of Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II, was involved in a Feb. 14 two vehicle crash near Cotati that killed one person and injured two others -- one of whom was Morse's best friend.

CHP investigators say Morse was driving with a blood alcohol level of .15, nearly twice the state's legal limit. He's also accused of driving with a fake driver's license.

Since his Feb. 26 release on bail from Sonoma County Jail, Morse has been staying at an alcohol treatment facility in Florida. Andrian said his client was present in Sonoma County Superior Court for Tuesday's brief hearing, although he's expected to return to Florida this week.

Although Andrian said Morse's treatment program is going well, his client is still mourning the death of 22-year-old Alexander Ruiz, who was killed in the crash. Andrian said Morse is also particularly upset about his friend, 19-year-old Ryne Spitzer, who was seriously injured in the crash.

Spitzer remains a patient at Kentfield Rehabilitation and Specialty Hospital, which is located in the San Francisco Bay Area. He remains in fair condition, according to Chris Yarnovich, Kentfield spokesman.

"(Morse) is having a very difficult time with that," Andrian said. He said the memory of the fatal crash will always be with Morse. "I think he's now realizing that it's not going to go away. And when you realize that it's not going away, that’s hard."

CHP investigators reported that the collision happened at 2:20 a.m. at the intersection of Stony Point Road and Highway 116 near Cotati. Morse was driving southbound on Stony Point Road and passed through a red light, the CHP reported. He collided with Ruiz's car and the impact sent both cars into a nearby field.

Ruiz, an Oakland resident, was pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger, 25-year-old Vanessa King, suffered facial lacerations, a broken arm and a broken collar bone.

Spitzer, a Sonoma State University student who was the passenger in Morse’s car, was injured with major head trauma. Morse wasn't hurt.

Morse is charged on suspicion of felony vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence and causing bodily injury to another person and causing bodily injury while driving with a blood alcohol concentration at or above 0.08 percent.

He's also charged on suspicion of having a fake driver's license, being a minor with alcohol in his car and possessing less than 28.5 grams of marijuana, which are misdemeanors.

If convicted, Morse faces up to 15 years in prison.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com.

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