Man accused of killing 11-year-old in an alleged drunk driving crash pleads not guilty

The man accused of drinking and driving and ultimately crashing into another car, killing an 11-year-old last month, pleaded not guilty in his arraignment.
Published: Aug. 1, 2023 at 10:34 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - The man accused of drinking and driving and ultimately crashing into another car, killing an 11-year-old last month, pleaded not guilty in his arraignment Tuesday.

Ahead of the arraignment, 11-year-old Ryan Ambrose’s family stood outside with t-shirts and signs reading “Justice for Ryan” before heading into the Justice Center.

A woman who identified herself as the suspect, Duprie Smith’s mom, apologized to the family before going inside. Smith arrived with others a short time later.

Inside, Ambrose’s family spoke to the judge, asking him to keep Smith in custody.

“We plead that this individual is set to be in custody,” Mitzi Zarate, Ryan’s mom said. “He took my only child. He is out free while my son is dead. We really would plead he would stay in custody. That’s the least that I ask. This is so hard for me and my family. I flew from Arizona to be here just for you to hear my plea as a mother.”

SEE ALSO: Family of 11-year-old killed in car crash distraught, angry

“I speak on behalf of all of my family,” said another family member. “My nephew, 11-years-old, was just here visiting us. Five years ago, almost to the day, we lost his dad in the same circumstances. We just don’t feel it’s right that somebody who was under the influence is able to be out, free on the streets when our little boy is not here anymore.”

Judge Michael Greenlick told the family he isn’t allowed to set bail to keep someone in custody while the case is pending.

“I want to acknowledge the indescribable grief that you must all be feeling,” Greenlick said. “I think it goes without saying everybody here understands how difficult these last few weeks have been for you. In our criminal justice system, when somebody comes into custody and is charged with a crime, at that time it is not the time where judges make a decision about what sort of sentence should be imposed if the person if the person were to be found guilty. The decision that judge’s are supposed to make at that very first court appearance is to look at whether they would be safe in the community if they were released on certain conditions and whether they come back to court. You’re not supposed to consider what sort of punishment the person should eventually get if they are convicted of the crime.”

Greenlick ultimately decided to allow Smith to maintain his release conditions as long as he remains in compliance. Smith had been released on enhanced DUII conditions, meaning he cannot possess or consume alcohol, he is not allowed to use any drugs not prescribed by a doctor, he cannot drive or possess a vehicle, and he cannot enter any bars, taverns, or other businesses that primarily serve alcohol.

Smith’s lawyer, in the arraignment, says he has also been attending required AA meetings at least once a week.

SEE ALSO: Woman killed in Hwy 26 car crash changing lives as an organ donor

Following the decision, Zarate expressed disappointment in the judge’s decision.

“I flew in, in hopes that this individual who caused us so much pain, would be put in custody during the trial, but according to the judge, he wasn’t able to because he was incompliance with everything. He took so much My only child. He was just a kid. He had a whole future ahead of him. He was so loved. He was a loving, sweet boy and he just took him away from us. He’s out. The judge didn’t comply with what we pleaded for.”

Zarate thanked the community for the support they have received and says the only thing she wants now is justice for her son.

“We can make a change more than anything so it doesn’t keep happening,” said Zarate. “Families can have justice. That’s all we want.”

Smith’s next court appearance has been set for Sep. 18.