Man Charged in Daughter’s Drowning Death


Clear Creek, not far from where the July 18 accident occurred.

Shasta Lake’s John Lee Morales, 50, was charged with two counts of felony child endangerment today following the tragic death of his 11-year-old daughter in a rafting accident on July 18.

While Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko and District Attorney Jerry Benito held a press conference to announce the charges, Morales pleaded not guilty in Shasta County Court.

The rafting accident took place in a swift gorge on Clear Creek. A 12-year-old girl, a friend of Morales’ daughter, was also in the raft and was wearing a life jacket, Bosenko said; she survived the affair and was rescued.


John Morales

John Morales and his daughter were not wearing life jackets and the total weight of the three rafters exceeded the two-person inflatable raft’s 400-pound capacity, Bosenko said in a press statement.

California law requires that any child under age 13 wear a flotation device while on the water.

The release also stated that Morales had been warned by bystanders not to run the section of river because of its danger and that the girls said they were afraid to try the section. Morales had been drinking prior to the accident and launched the kayak despite the warnings, Bosenko said.

Additional charges have been filed against Morales because he was on bail in another felony case when his alleged violations occurred. In that case, Morales had been charged with a felony DUI and had multiple convictions of DUIs within the last 10 years.

“This case is more than a tragic accident,” Bosenko said in his statement. “This situation could have been avoided. It was the result of negligence and child endangerment, and a death that occurred while drinking alcohol. My sympathy goes out to the surviving family and friends. My thanks goes out to the citizens who made intervention and helped at the scene. Thanks also goes to all of the rescue personnel and our staff who assisted and investigated this incident.”

Morales is currently in jail with his bail set at $500,000.

jim-dyar-125Jim Dyar is a news, arts and entertainment journalist for A News Cafe and the former arts and entertainment editor for the Record Searchlight’s D.A.T.E. section. Jim is also a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding. E-mail him at


is a journalist who focuses on arts, entertainment, music and the outdoors. He is a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding and can be reached at
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6 Responses

  1. Avatar gamerjohn says:

    This seems very selective by Benito. Other fathers get a pass to mourn in private instead of jail. Of course Morales isn't a cop who left his gun out for his child, a clear Penal Code violation.

    Still with Eric Berg as his lawyer, Morales will see everything thrown at him as the DA gets tired of losing to Berg.

  2. Avatar Donna says:

    I have a heart for Lilly's parents, how they must each hurt. To arrest the dad is just wrong. This entire episode was an accident, not an intent.

    Jerry Benito is a jerk to allow charges. I mean if you want to go nuts, why not charge the mom for allowing Lilly to be with her father….after all .. he was on bail for drunken behavior, sure the mom knew all that. I don't believe this for a minute, but in our new law enforced lives, wouldn't you imagine the mother is guilty as well… after all she allowed the father to take Lilly. She knew the dad drank too much and oh golly allowed Lilly to GO WITH HIM… Wow. how nuts we have become. That is how petty we can become and that is no good.

    Do you think for a mintue the dad WANTED his daughter to drown? Neither do I. Why would Benito think that?

    The death of Lllly was an ACCIDENT, both parents are grieving. What is wrong with Benito? I am so glad he was voted out, he is not right in his picking and choosing crimes to prosecute. Why does he add grief to a devasted family?

  3. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    I'm sure it was a tough call for our lame duck D.A. Mr. Jerry Benito. Mr. Morales was out on a promise to appear on yet another DUI and driving with a suspended licence.

    He was warned by onlookers not to attempt the rapids with such a float device and some of the kids didn't have life jackets. He put these kids at risk.

    His loss will, no doubt, stay with him for life. Nevertheless, My deepest sympathy to you John Morales. May God give you peace and true justice be served.

  4. Avatar Louise says:

    It is so easy for people to make judgements and to accuse Lily's Mother of allowing her daughter to go out with a Father who had been drinking.

    They say IGNORANCE IS BLISS…. believe me when I say that Leigh Ann spent her life protecting her children as well as she could from their Father. Unlike their Father Leigh Ann did follow the letter of the law and unfortunately that met that she had to allow her children visitation with their Father. Do you think that she was allowed to give him a breathalizer test prior to allowing Lily to leave with him? If you have followed what has been published it was made public that John told the girls NOT to tell Lily's Mom that he was drinking.

    It was John that left his daughter and swam to the shore leaving strangers (thank you very much to those brave men) who tried to save Lily. Do I think that John has it in him to purposely put his daughter in danger? Absolutely, I think if you have followed this horror you should see that he put himself before his daughter.

    He obviously knows how to swim but his life was more important than his daughters, to him. He did not even take the time to have her put a life jacket on or listen to the people warning him not to go into and unsafe area. I know this waste of human organs. I honestly can not remember any time that he did anything good without expecting and getting something in return. Lily is now in Heaven and she does not have to cover for her Fathers behaviors but, because he wasn't put behind bars sooner she is not out there bring joy and smiles to friends and strangers, alike.

    Even though you do not know this family, think about what people who where there saw and said about how Lily was forced by her Father into a deadly situation. Lily was looking forward to her birthday and so was her family. God Bless Lily's loving family.

    • Avatar eastsideSJsurvivor says:

      Lily is with God now.

      One more life that is safe from his tormented soul.

      I have been reading many different sites about this tragic incident.

      While the tears stream down my face, I become more infuriated with the comments left by fools (look up the definition of fool).

      I grew up with this ______ < (words cannot be found that would be acceptable.)

      In junior high (7th grade) he was bringing a sock filled with spray paint hidden in a plastic bag, to huff at break and lunch time.

      In high school days, (we were Sophmores) at a party he stabbed an innocent student in the arm for asking him to leave.

      From high school on, he was arrested numerous times for drugs, alcohol, you name it.. only to be bailed out by his POOR FATHER AL.

      He was fired from every job due to agressive behaivior and substance abuse problems.

      From the 1970's until present day, I heard nothing but numerous stories about this possesed person taking advantage of and using, abusing, ANYONE that came across his path.

      God commands us to not bear false witness against our neighbor.

      I'm not.

      Believe me, if I were to type everything, you would be here reading for days!

      I left Hell back early in the 90's. John just seemed more comfortable there, never really making the effort to TRULY confess his sins and repent, to reach up and be lifted out.

      We all now see what his self centered attitude has now led him to.

      Again my heart and tears pour out for Lily's mom and family, John's family, but not John.

      Tears cannot be shed for one that refuses to shed them himself.

      I can see him in jail, perhaps prison, chest all flared..macho attitude.

      John's way of self preservation.

      May God have pity upon him when his fellow inmates hear the TRUTH about..

      Hopefully soon,when John calls to God and really wants help, it will still be between him & God.

      what bothers me in all of the pictures of him at booking, in court..

      Again, where are the tears? The wretched look on his face for what he's done?

      And refusing to talk to anyone?

      I would have been screaming to the world about what I have just done, yelling for someone to put me out of my misery.

      I would have tried to save my children in ANY event, anyone that would have been around me, gladly dying so another may live.

      Self sacrifice!

      John needs to go to prison.

      It will give him the time away from substance abuse to allow the clearing to see how much of the world he has already destroyed with his selfishness of not getting better as so others may prosper through him.

      I have sat and talked with him before, during and after his attempts at rehabilitation.

      He never really wanted to get better, always an excuse, a blame..

      NEVER did I see even the glimmer of light for John accept reality about his life.

      Something WE (that know him) can all say we have in common.

      Lily loved her dad.

      She didn't have the wisdom yet to see the potential danger that was ahead.

      She didn't have the anger as all of us ended up with to walk away.

      Like all of us, she was conned into trusting.

      God saves the innocent.

      She is now safe, calm, happy.. awaiting the glorious moment of when she will be reunited once again.

      She wants us all to pray.

      For our loved ones, our friends, our enemies, those without..

      even for her Dad.

      Let God do his work and may all of you forgive me for my judgements.

      peace be with you all.

  5. Avatar Warren says:

    I knew John and his family for a couple of yrs. Lily was only 3 when I first met her. She was a precious and adorable person. John lived with me and my girlfriend and I had to kick him out for trying to tell me how to run my own household. He had a huge ego and did as he wished. He never did pay me for the rent money he owed me. I was in recovery and he knew it and yet he would come home drunk and or high. He screwed every one he came in contact with. I paid him to do some work on my truck and he charged me for the parts and never did the job. Later I found out he cheated me and had to pay someone else to do the job I already paid him to do. John never listened to anyone. He did as he pleased and didn't care what others thought. He even charged his ex wife to do work on her car as well. Everything was about him. I hope they throw the book at him and maybe just maybe he will wake up and grow up. Yes this was an accident but this is just an example of how John lived his life doing as he wanted.