Numerous witnesses and police surveillance led investigators to the Stanton motel where they arrested a 31-year-old man after a hit-and-run that killed three teen girls Halloween night in Santa Ana, police said Monday.
Jaquinn Ramone Bell was found at a Motel 6 on Sunday with his two children and two other adults after a multi-agency investigation, Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas said.
Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido had said Sunday that five people were arrested in connection with the hit-and-run, but police announced Monday that they had arrested only Bell and had released the two adults. Bell's children were taken into protective custody, Rojas said.
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"He wasn't fighting or resisting, really that I'm aware of, it was crazy," a witness to the arrest said.
The search for Bell began when Andrea Gonzalez and her twin friends Lexi and Lexandra Perez, all 13, were fatally struck by an SUV that was later found ditched about three blocks away Friday night. Police said the girls were walking in a crosswalk when they were hit.
After leads brought police to the Stanton Motel 6, a surveillance team discovered Bell was staying there. He was arrested on suspicion of felony hit-and-run causing death.
"He did not attempt to stop or render aid to the children that he hit," Rojas said. "There's no doubt in my mind that anybody who was driving in a vehicle that impacted three individuals in a crosswalk and had significant damage to the vehicle probably knew ... they hit something."
According to police, Bell was driving with his 17-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter in the car. It is unclear how fast Bell was allegedly driving, but police said there were no skid marks at the scene.
"We just need to keep in mind that the speed limit is 45 mph in that area, so somebody hitting pedestrians, even at the speed limit, would cause death," Rojas said.
Bell was previously arrested in August for hit-and-run and DUI, and his license was suspended in October, 17 days before the crash.
According to court documents, Bell had been in and out of jail for a dozen years. He had two court warrants issued for his arrest, one for domestic violence and the other for contempt of court.
Pulido said Sunday that investigators worked around-the-clock to close the case.
"We've done a very strong effort, 24 hours nonstop, in order to find individuals that are associated, and we believe that one of them was the driver," Pulido said. "This is a street where cars can go fast, it's just the nature of the street. So we're going to see what we can do to make it safer."
Andrea’s mother Maria Gonzalez spoke out after the first time after hearing about the arrests.
“She was my whole entire life, my little angel,” Gonzalez said.
Online donations totaling more than $40,000 had been raised as of Monday morning as a memorial of candles, flowers and notes continued to grow for the teens at Grand and Fairhaven avenues.
“It’s hard. I’ve known them since I was six, and now they’re gone,” friend Ashley Jimenez, 11, said. “They would always be smiling, happy all the time.”
Friend Paige Flynn added that her friend Lexi had a "beautiful smile" and that she and Lexandra sat near eachother at school and would "always talk.'
"I'm very sad, but I'm glad that they're in a better place now," Flynn said.
Anyone wishing to donate to the girls’ memorial funds can visit the following links:
- Lexandra and Lexi: http://www.gofundme.com/gl7l4s
- Andrea Gonzalez: http://www.gofundme.com/andreagonzalez