A Storied Career
The crash – called a traffic homicide in cop parlance – claimed the life of a man who worked his way up from the projects in southern Ohio.
His father worked as an appliance salesman and the family struggled for years.
He paid his own way through school, first taking the pre-med route at Ohio State and then going into the Navy stationed at the Naval Flight School in Pensacola. He trained to be a pilot, his son, Jeff, said.
“I think there he decided what he wanted to do in life,” his son said.
His father got his undergraduate accounting degree and then picked up a full ride to Ohio State’s law school. Along with Harvard and the University of Michigan, Ohio State offered him a full scholarship. He chose Ohio State.
“Ohio State gave him an opportunity and he never forgot that,” Jeff Moritz said.
He graduated first in his class from law school in 1961.
He practiced corporate law and retired from Baker and Hostetler in 1997, his son said. His colleagues called him creative and able to translate complex issues into understandable language.
“He believed so strongly in hard work,” his son, Jeff, said. “His success, he thought, was due to that work ethic.”
In retirement, it was the Moritzes’ second winter in Naples. They had rented a Pelican Bay condo and were hoping to move to Naples soon.
Moritz left behind four children and 11 grandchildren.
“He always treated people right,” his son said.
Brushes with the law
His truck was “his baby.”
No one else was allowed to drive it.
At the time of the wreck, Ryals, who is known as Scott, was employed in construction.
He had been working for B.J. Excavating as a heavy equipment operator. That Saturday, he was working at Tiburon, a golf course then under construction in North Naples.
A 1979 graduate of Barron Collier High School, he married his wife in September 2000. It was his second marriage. He has two adult children with his first wife, whom he divorced.
His driver license had been suspended after a string of drunken driving arrests. So, he said, his wife drove him to work and picked him up each day in the Toyota truck.
However, co-workers said they’d seen Ryals, who now lives at a North Naples apartment complex, behind the wheel many times.
In 1993, he was convicted of battery on a law enforcement officer. Three years later, he was convicted of purchase and possession with intent to purchase cocaine. In 1997, Ryals again was convicted on another cocaine charge.
He was arrested four times on DUI charges. On March 27, 2002, a little more than a month after the crash, Ryals was sentenced to six months in the Lee County jail. He was released in August 2002, six months after the crash.
In January 2003, he was arrested on a violation of probation warrant from Lee County on a previous DUI charge. A few days later, he was picked up again on a driving with a suspended license charge in Collier County. After going back and forth between the Lee and Collier county jails, he was sentenced to time served in April and released from the Collier jail.
His attorney says authorities can’t put Ryals behind the wheel on the night of the crash.
Sheriff’s deputies say Ryals’ blood was left behind in the truck. They got his blood sample on a warrant served while he was hospitalized at Lee Memorial Hospital. Tests show the blood in the truck was his, but Ryals contends it was from an injury he had before the crash.