A 32-year-old man was sentenced to 15 years behind bars Thursday after being convicted of killing three teenage girls in a hit-and-run last Halloween in Santa Ana.
Jaquinn Ramone Bell, of Orange, received the maximum sentence of 13 years and 8 months in prison for manslaughter and an additional two years in county jail in part for a probation violation.
Bell was speeding on Oct. 31, 2014, when he fatally struck twin sisters Lexi Perez and Lexandra Perez and their friend Andrea Gonzalez.
The three girls, all 13 years old, were trick-or-treating and in a crosswalk when a Honda CRV plowed into them, throwing them more than 100 feet, authorities said at the time.
All three girls died at the scene.
The abandoned SUV was located later that night about a quarter mile from the scene with a shattered windshield and severe damage to its hood and passenger side.
Bell, who was with his two sons – ages 14 and 17 – when the incident occurred, was arrested within days of the crash.
Court records indicated that three months prior, Bell had been convicted on charges related to a DUI hit-and-run, and that his license was suspended.
In the August incident, Bell also had underage occupants in a vehicle at the time of a crash. He pleaded guilty to child abuse and endangerment, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol and hit-and-run with property damage.
At the time of his October arrest, Bell also had two warrants out for his arrest in connection with domestic violence allegations.
Under California law, if a person previously convicted of DUI kills someone while driving under the influence, that driver may be charged with murder.
However, Bell fled the Santa Ana scene and was not apprehended until two days after the incident, and thus was not given breathalyzer or field-sobriety tests.
Prosecutors initially sought a 17-year sentence, but the court ruled that enhanced allegations for personally inflicting great bodily injury could not be attached to manslaughter charges, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Bell pleaded guilty March 20 to three felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, one felony count of hit-and-run with permanent injury or death, one misdemeanor count of driving on a suspended license and sentencing enhancement of fleeing the scene.
Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect Bell’s 15-year sentence is 13 years in prison and two in county jail.