CRIME

California Man Admits To Fatal Halloween Hit-And-Run That Killed 3 13-Year-Olds

03/21/2015 01:28 am ET | Updated May 21, 2015
Santa Ana Police Department

March 20 (Reuters) - A man who struck and killed three 13-year-old California girls as they were trick-or-treating last Halloween and then fled in his damaged sport utility vehicle pleaded guilty on Friday to several felony charges, prosecutors said.

Jaquinn Ramone Bell, 32, was convicted of three felony vehicular manslaughter counts, one felony fatal hit-and-run charge, a misdemeanor for driving with a suspended license, and received a sentencing enhancement for leaving the scene, the Orange County District Attorney's Office said in a statement.

Twin sisters Lexia and Lexandra Perez and their friend Andrea Gonzales, all 13, were wearing costumes and carrying bags of candy as they crossed a street in Santa Ana, some 40 miles (65 km) southeast of Los Angeles, when they were struck by the SUV last Halloween evening.

Prosecutors said Bell was driving at more than 60 mph (95 kph) at the time of the collision. The speed limit for the area was 45 mph (70 kph).

Bell did not stop to help the dying girls, prosecutors said. All three were pronounced dead at the scene, triggering an outpouring of grief in working class Santa Ana and across Southern California.

Authorities say Bell abandoned the vehicle, which had a damaged front end from the accident, near the scene and fled on foot.

Bell was arrested in November at a Motel 6 in Stanton, California, not far from where the girls were hit on a crosswalk.

His mother and half-sister were also initially arrested but later released when they were cleared of involvement in the collision.

Bell faces a maximum of 13 years and eight months in state prison and is set to be sentenced on May 21, the statement said. (Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Paul Tait)

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