SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — It was an emotional scene at the Orange County Courthouse, as friends and coworkers of a beloved local running legend killed by a hit-and-run driver faced the suspect in court Friday.
Juan Ramirez, 48, clocked 70 miles a week, but he took his last strides near Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley late last month, where hit-and-run suspect John Motesharrei’s vehicle struck the Santa Ana man, killing him.
Motesharrei, 39, faced Ramirez’s friends from behind his lawyer Friday, as he pleaded not guilty to felony hit-and-run and vehicular manslaughter charges.
“I thought the guy hiding behind the lawyer was really cowardly of him and shows his character,” Sunny Patel told CBS2 News. Patel was Ramirez’s boss at the Best Western in Sunset Beach, where he was manager.
“He put a smile on my face,” Patel said. “He put a smile on my face. He cheered people up.”
Fellow runner Catherine Vallejo said Ramirez was as kind on the paths as he was in life, despite his stellar reputation.
“Most elites, you go, ‘Oh, wow!’ But Juan was the type of person who would reach out, not only to the elites, but also to us ‘snails’—us slow people.”
A memorial service will be held for Ramirez this Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Newport Beach Civic Center.