A California man was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison on Thursday for striking and killing three 13-year-old girls as they crossed a street while trick-or-treating on Halloween, then fleeing the scene in his damaged vehicle.
Jaquinn Ramone Bell, 32, pleaded guilty in March to vehicular manslaughter in the Oct. 31 incident, in which twin sisters and another friend were run over at a crosswalk in Santa Ana, about 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
Bell, who was driving on a suspended license and had his two children in the car when he hit the girls, fled the scene and did not call police or stop to help, prosecutors said.
An Orange County Superior Court Judge gave Bell the maximum possible sentence for the crime, a total of 13 years and 8 months in state prison, a spokeswoman with the Orange County District Attorney said.
Bell will also spend two years in jail for a probation violation and leaving the scene of an accident, she said.
Bell was arrested in November at a Motel 6 in Stanton, California, not far from where the girls were hit. His damaged sport utility vehicle was found abandoned not far from the crime scene.
Twin sisters Lexia and Lexandra Perez and their friend Andrea Gonzales, all 13, were wearing costumes and carrying bags of candy when they were fatally struck, police said.
Their deaths and the ensuing search for the hit-and-run driver triggered an outpouring of grief in working class Santa Ana and across Southern California.
Before handing down the sentencing on Thursday, Judge Gassia Apkarian called Bell’s actions “unconscionable, shocking and inhumane,” the Orange County Register reported.
The girls’ relatives had asked for the most severe possible sentence, the newspaper reported.
“I still hear the noise from the impacts sounding in my head,” Andrea’s mother, Maria, said. “Our family will never be the same.”
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in Seattle; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)