TUCSON — For almost 15 years, a convicted killer sent court-ordered restitution to the families of two teenage Sierra Vista girls he slammed into and killed while driving drunk on I-10 in 1987.
Then three years ago, the payments being made by David Molina Morales to the parents of Brenda Axline and Tracy Johnson suddenly stopped.
Monday, the girls’ parents were scheduled to appear at a hearing in Arizona Superior Court in Tucson to compel Morales to continue paying what he owed. The hearing date was scheduled on the third anniversary of the date the payments had ceased in 2016, said Brenda Axline’s mother, Molly Axline.
But the hearing was called off late Friday when Axline and John Johnson, Tracy Johnson’s father, received a call from the courthouse in Tucson informing them that Morales had paid up the remaining total; the court clerk told them that each family would receive a check for $2,500.
”After three years of not paying us anything, I was shocked,” Molly Axline, who lives in California, said Monday. “The odds of him paying this were not good.”
John Johnson, who still lives in Sierra Vista, was equally surprised: “I couldn’t believe he had come up with the money. Not that it’s going to bring the girls back, but he needed to pay what he was ordered.”
The parents had petitioned the Arizona Superior Court in June after waiting three years for a check from Morales. The teenagers were killed Aug. 1, 1987, after Morales rammed into their car. He was driving in the wrong direction and he was drunk. The girls — Brenda Axline was 18 and Tracy Johnson was 17 — were returning from Tucson after buying clothes for school.
Convicted of manslaughter, Morales was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was released in 2009 after serving 21 years. Before his release, he was ordered to pay each family $4,500 for out-of-pocket funeral expenses, Molly Axline and John Johnson said. The payments began in late December 2004, when Morales started sending each family about $5.25 a month.
The restitution to the families finally rose to $25 a month, then the money stopped coming in July 2016, Molly Axline said. Morales still owed the families $5,000, or $2,500 each. A clerk in the accounting office of the Arizona Superior Court in Tucson confirmed Monday that both families would each receive a check, but she declined to say where Morales had gotten the money, or why he suddenly decided to pay it.
Morales could not be reached for comment Monday. Two numbers listed under his name and address have been disconnected.
While Morales has served his prison sentence and has now paid his restitution, Molly Axline said she will continue to print an ad in the Herald/Review on the anniversary of her daughter’s and Tracy Johnson’s deaths to remind Morales of what happened 32 years ago.