Illegal immigrant gets 99 years in death of nurse

Published 11:47 am Thursday, August 15, 2019

By J.R. TIDWELL / Editor

Less than a month after being found guilty of reckless murder in the death of 29-year-old Marlena Hayes of Jemison, Jorge Ruiz, 20, an illegal immigrant, has been sentenced to 99 years in prison for the crime.

Judge Bill Lewis of the 19th Judicial Circuit handed down the sentence Aug. 14 in Autauga County.

Reckless murder is a Class A felony with a sentence range from 10-99 years or life.

Lewis also sentenced Ruiz to three months on an alcohol charge that will not run concurrently with the 99-year sentence.

“Thank you Judge Bill Lewis for helping this family close a painful chapter in their lives with an exclamation point of justice,” said Chief Assistant District Attorney C.J. Robinson in a social media post. “The day of judgment finally came for the man who killed Marlena Hayes. The jury spoke, and today the sentence was imposed. I wish I had known her, but her spirit is alive and well in her family and friends who encouraged and pushed us to be at our absolute best throughout the trial of her case. To everyone who thinks about drinking alcohol and driving … hand someone else the keys next time.”

According to Robinson, Ruiz attended a party in Birmingham in October of last year after a full day of work. He was returning to Prattville early in the morning on Highway 31, having not slept at all that night, when he struck Hayes, a nurse at Prattville Baptist Hospital, who was heading home after her shift.

A blood test later determined Ruiz had a blood alcohol content of 0.016%, just under the threshold of 0.02% for DUI in Alabama for individuals under 21.

Witnesses testified during the case that instead of attempting to check on Hayes after the wreck, Ruiz began removing beer cans from the inside of his vehicle.

“I knew I had to fight as hard as I could because Marlena Hayes deserves to be remembered and I knew I couldn’t live with myself if he was able to do this to another mother,” said Laura Liveoak, Hayes’s mother, on Robinson’s post. “I will be forever grateful for all y’all have done.”

Robinson said before the sentencing if Ruiz ever gets out of prison, he will be deported back to Mexico by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Ruiz was almost deported by ICE earlier this year after posting bond, but the bond was rescinded and Ruiz was returned to Autauga County the same day.

Ruiz was convicted in the case on July 24 after less than an hour of deliberation by a jury.