Three 13-year-old girls, two of whom were twins, were killed on Halloween when an SUV barreled through a California intersection and hit the girls while they trick-or-treated. A police spokesman on Saturday said that investigators are still seeking the identity of the hit-and-run driver.
The girls, dressed in costumes and toting trick-or-treat bags, were crossing Fairhaven Avenue in a crosswalk near Santa Ana’s Fairhaven Elementary School when the SUV struck them at approximately 6:30 p.m. Santa Ana is located about 35 miles south of Los Angeles.
Corporal Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana police said that the black Honda SUV used in the hit-and-run had been found abandoned with heavy damage to the front of the vehicle in a parking lot behind a Big Lots store. Chief of Police Carlos Roja said during a briefing on Saturday that his department is looking for two or three men who were inside of the Honda. Investigators were able to determine to whom the vehicle was registered and police visited the owner at the address listed on the registration on Friday night. The people living at the address could not be connected to the vehicle, leaving detectives unable to locate where the owner of the Honda is currently living or if the SUV was stolen prior to the Halloween accident. Bertagna said that the case is “a work in process.”
Detectives are hoping to obtain surveillance footage from nearby properties. Police were able to collect physical evidence from the Honda, including DNA and fingerprints.
Police released the identities of the victims on Saturday. They were twin sisters Lexandra and Lexi Perez and friend Andrea Gonzalez. The three girls were residents of the same apartment complex located nearby and had grown up together. All three, known to the residents of the neighborhood as “las muñequitas (the dolls),” were dressed in dark clothing and black leggings – Andrea Gonzalez as a skeleton.
Two of the girls were dead when emergency personnel arrived, and the third died as first responders were preparing to transport her to the hospital, said Captain Steve Concialdi of the Orange County Fire Authority. Bertagna said that the SUV had been traveling very fast when it hit the teens. Residents of the neighborhood in which the crash occurred told the Los Angeles Times that due to the violent nature of the collision, they thought it was fake.
Seventeen-year-old Clarissa Cisneros resides on Fairhaven Avenue. She said she was decorating for Halloween when she heard what sounded like a man screaming, followed by the sound of a collision. She described the vehicle speeding away while the bodies of the girls tumbled through the air. At first, Cisneros believed the scene to have been staged and the girls’ bodies to be dummies, but she quickly realized the truth after walking over to a body and sweeping the hair back so that she could see the face. Once she saw the girl’s face, she knew that she was dead. Cisneros said the girl’s “eyes were closed. She looked peaceful.”
Approximately 70 people gathered on the curb near the scene of the hit-and-run on Saturday afternoon. They left stuffed toys, flowers and candles, creating a memorial for the girls who lost their lives while doing what most children across the country were doing on Friday night. These girls, however, did not return home to compare their hauls of candy and sort out the good ones from the bad. The Santa Ana police continue the investigation.
By Jennifer Pfalz