SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Prosecutors filed charges Tuesday against a driver charged with fleeing in his SUV after fatally striking three Southern California teenage girls as they were trick-or-treating on Halloween.
Jaquinn Bell, 31, was charged with three felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, one felony count of hit-and-run with permanent injury or death, and one misdemeanor count of driving on a suspended license, the Orange County district attorney’s office said.
Bell, who recently pleaded guilty to a separate hit-and-run, was scheduled for arraignment later in the day but it was postponed to Dec. 16. He was ordered held on more than $1 million bail. If convicted, he faces up to 17 years in state prison.
The complaint also included sentencing enhancement allegations of personally inflicting great bodily injury and fleeing the scene after committing a vehicular manslaughter.
The victims of the Halloween night crash in the city of Santa Ana were twin sisters Lexi and Lexandra Perez and a friend, Andrea Gonzalez, all 13 years old.
Police said the girls were crossing a street in a marked crosswalk when they were struck by a black Honda SUV that left the scene without stopping.
Authorities believe Bell fled with his two teenage children after ditching the damaged car in a nearby parking lot. He was arrested on Sunday at a motel in the city of Stanton.
Bell pleaded guilty in August to misdemeanor counts of child abuse, driving under the influence and hit-and-run with property damage, online court records show. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail, three years’ probation, and alcohol- and child-abuse treatment programs, a court spokeswoman said.
He has prior convictions for reckless driving, spousal injury and violation of a protective order, records show.
“He should’ve got a stiffer sentence than he had,” said John Dunton, a spokesman for the Gonzalez family. “If he would’ve been in jail, these victims would be alive today.”
Trick-or-treaters were also injured and killed in collisions in New York, Florida, Washington state and the nearby Orange County city of Irvine, where 65-year-old John Alcorn died after he was struck by a car. His 4-year-old son was in critical but stable condition.