Families of Santa Ana teens killed in 2014 Halloween hit-and-run speak out

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Halloween is this Saturday. It will mark one year since three teenage girls were struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver while out trick-or-treating in Santa Ana.

At the intersection of Fairhaven Avenue and Old Grand Street, flowers made up a small memorial -- a reminder of the tragedy that struck this community nearly a year ago.

For the families of three 13-year-old girls, it's a night they'll never forget.

Last Halloween, twins Lexi and Lexandra Perez-Huerta and their best friend, Andrea Gonzalez, were out trick-or-treating. As they walked in a crosswalk around 6:45 p.m., police say a Honda CR-V barreled into them.

The driver did not stop, and all three girls died at the scene.

"I always get flashbacks. No matter how long it's been, I always get flashbacks of just seeing them there, all three of them there," said Luis Perez, the twins' brother.

Two days later, tips led officers to a motel in Stanton where they arrested Jaquinn Ramone Bell.

Bell pleaded guilty to the hit-and-run deaths. At sentencing, his attorney said Bell was "intensely remorseful." He's currently serving 13 years in prison -- the maximum for vehicular manslaughter.

"I feel like it should have been more because it wasn't just one person; it was three," said Perez.

The families and the prosecutor expressed frustration because Bell left the scene. Court records show he was on probation at the time for a previous hit-and-run while driving under the influence.

"No sentence is good enough for him, for him to pay for what he did," said Brenda Gonzalez, Andrea's sister.

The families are now focused on healing, which has been difficult when both still live just blocks from the crosswalk where the girls died.

"I still hear her laughing and stuff, so that is really difficult," said Gonzalez.

The girls' siblings say their parents have taken the loss the hardest. Andrea's father wishes for one more moment with his baby girl. Lexi and Lexandra's mother just celebrated the twins' birthday a few weeks ago. As Halloween gets closer, she says the pain gets worse.

Despite the pain, both families say they're trying to focus on the joy the girls brought them, especially during the holiday all three loved.

"I kind of have some optimism because she would have been happy knowing that it's Halloween," said Josafat Gonzalez, Andreas brother.

The city recently installed new lights and signs at the crosswalk where the girls were hit. The families still want more done.

In the meantime, both say this tragedy has brought each of their families closer, cherishing every moment together.

"Everything can be gone in just one minute. We never know when is the last time that we can be together," said Brenda Gonzalez.

To honor the memory of the girls, ABC7 is teaming up with these families, Santa Ana police and other community partners to host the Fairhaven Fall Festival.

The event will be held Friday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Fairhaven Elementary School. Officers will offer tips for staying safe during Halloween and year round.
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