A man with a long rap sheet and a last known address in Orange was sentenced Thursday to 14 years and change in lockup for the hit-and-run slayings of three 13-year-old girls who were trick-or-treating in Santa Ana on Halloween night.
Jaquinn Ramone Bell, 32, had pleaded guilty in March 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 enhancements for fleeing the scene of a crime after committing vehicular manslaughter.
Andrea Gonzalez and twin sisters Lexandra and Lexie Perez Huerta, who are all from Santa Ana, were in a crosswalk in the 1400 block of East Fairhaven Avenue near Jacaranda Street while trick-or-treating around 6:45 p.m. Oct. 31 when they were fatally struck by a Honda CRV, which was traveling in excess of 60 mph where the posted speed limit is 45 mph.
The vehicle was driven by Bell, whose 17-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter were passengers, and he never stopped to render aid to the girls, who died at the scene. On probation at the time of the crash for a drunken hit-and-run wreck in Anaheim, Bell was not arrested until the next day in a Stanton motel, after the Honda CRV he abandoned in a Big Lots parking lot near the Santa Ana accident scene was traced back to him.
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That delay spared Bell a possible triple-murder conviction and life in prison as prosecutors had no evidence to charge him with driving under the influence. That's not the only break he caught. When he was first charged on Nov. 4, he faced sentencing enhancement allegations for personally inflicting great bodily injury and a maximum sentence of 17 years in state prison. But in February, the California Supreme Court ruled that a great bodily injury enhancement could not attach to any manslaughter charge under any circumstance, so the sentencing enhancement and potential for more prison time had to be dropped.
Under the amended charges Bell pleaded guilty to, he was sentenced today to 13 years and eight months in state prison. He was additionally convicted in the Anaheim offense of one misdemeanor count of driving under the influence of alcohol, one misdemeanor count of child endangerment, and one misdemeanor count of hit and run with property damage. That drew him six more months in jail.
Prosecutors say at Thursday's sentencing, the mother of Lexie and Lexandra delivered a victim impact statement in which she spoke about how sad the loss has been for their family and that she will never receive a Mother's Day card from her daughters again.