California man gets life sentence in deaths of 3 teens killed after doorbell prank

Watchara Phomicinda

A driver whose pursuit of a carful of teenage pranksters ended in the deaths of three of them was sentenced Friday to life in prison, California prosecutors said.

Anurag Chandra, 45, ran the teens' vehicle off the road after pursuing it on Jan. 19, 2020, in the community of Temescal Valley, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office said.

District Attorney Mike Hestrin said Friday's sentence of life without the possibility of parole was the maximum for the case.

Chandra was convicted in April of three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder.

The deceased were all 16: Daniel Hawkins of Corona, Drake Ruiz of Corona, and Jacob Ivascu of Riverside. Three others in the 2002 Toyota Prius they were in were injured, authorities said.

The car appeared to have collided with a tree and utility pole just before midnight.

Injured driver Sergio Campusano, 18, told NBC Los Angeles that one of the boys rang the man’s doorbell and ran back to the Prius as part of a prank known as doorbell ditch or ding-dong ditch.

The area teenagers had at a sleepover when they headed out in the sedan and ended up outside Chandra's home in Temescal Valley, about 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Chandra, in an Infinity Q50 roughly 1,000 pounds heavier than the Prius without passengers, drove after the teenagers and collided with the Toyota twice before reaching 99 mph and ramming it so it went off the roadway, according to prosecutors and the California Highway Patrol.

Authorities said Chandra's vehicle turned around and drove past the wreckage, but the driver did not call for help.

Relatives of the victims read statements at Friday's sentencing, according to the DA's office.

Craig Hawkins, Daniel’s father, is quoted as saying, "Every day we sense the absence of this young man. The hole in our hearts and lives from the taking of our son’s life is staggering."

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