Man charged with murder, kidnapping in violent Pico Rivera carjacking that killed 13-year-old girl

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A 26-year-old man faces murder and kidnapping charges in connection with the death of a 13-year-old girl during a violent carjacking in Pico Rivera over the weekend, officials said Wednesday.

Jose Elias Aguilar has been charged with 10 counts, including corporal injury to a child and four counts each of carjacking and kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking, according to the criminal complaint filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

He also faces special allegations of murder during the commission of a carjacking and kidnapping, and having previously been convicted of a crime.

Isabella Cortes was killed and her 8-year-old brother was severely injured during the July 5 incident.

Isabella Cortes is seen in an undated photo posted to a GoFundMe campaign.
Isabella Cortes is seen in an undated photo posted to a GoFundMe campaign.

The ordeal began about 2:05 p.m. when a family of six stopped at La Mano Tortilleria at 9237 Whittier Blvd.

Four children — ages 17, 13, 11 and 8 — were left in the back seats of the family van with the engine and air conditioning running while their parents went inside to buy food. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which investigated the case, previously said the oldest sibling is 18.

Officials allege that Aguilar “jumped in” the front seat when the parents were still in the business, sheriff’s officials said.

Aguilar allegedly yelled at the children in Spanish to get out of the van, but he sped off before they were able to.

During the carjacking, the oldest daughter briefly fought with the man and she and her 11-year-old brother either got pushed out of the van or jumped out, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

The two siblings received minor injuries, but the other two remained inside the vehicle.

At the intersection of Deland Avenue and Whittier Boulevard, the 8-year-old boy was “forcefully ejected” as the van reached speeds of up to 50 mph. He suffered major injuries and was taken to a hospital.

Later, Isabella was also ejected from the van, hit a “stationary” object and died at the scene, officials said.

Aguilar, meanwhile, continued driving west before he crashed into another vehicle. He continued until the van stalled and he ran toward the Whittier Narrows Recreational Area, officials said.

He then carjacked another car from a man who had his wife and a 2-year-old child inside. The driver managed to jump back in the car and fought Aguilar for about 100 yards until they crashed into a nearby bridge, officials said. He also faces a carjacking charge for that incident, officials said.

Aguilar tried to escape again, but was detained by “good Samaritans” who held him until police arrived, authorities said.

Aguilar was taken to a hospital for treatment and was eventually arrested.

The suspect had recently been arrested and was released on no bail for possession of a dirk or dagger and vandalism, officials said.

He had previously been convicted of first-degree burglary in Orange County in May 2017, the complaint says.

Aguilar was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday for his most recent charges, but the arraignment was continued to Aug. 19.

He could face life without the possibility of parole and is eligible for the death penalty if convicted as charged.

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