A Southern California man was found guilty Friday of murdering three teenagers after they played a doorbell-ringing prank on him and intentionally crashed their car.
Anurag Chandra was convicted in Riverside County Court of three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder.
County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in a statement, “The killing of these young men was a horrific and senseless tragedy for our community. I thank the jury for their verdict. This is an important step toward justice.”
Chandra’s attorney, David Wohl, did not immediately return a request for comment Friday.
The victims, who were 16 years old, were among six teenagers inside a Toyota Prius on Jan. 19, 2020, when Chandra intentionally drove their car off the road and fled, prosecutors said.
The driver of the Prius lost control and the sedan crashed into a tree in Temescal Valley, about 60 miles (97 km) southeast of downtown Los Angeles.
Friends dared a boy to either jump into the pool at night or play “Ding Dong Ditch”.
According to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, Chandra, who did not know the teenagers, testified at trial that one of the boys rang her doorbell and exposed her buttocks before running away. Chandra testified that he followed because he feared for his family’s safety and wanted to vent his anger. He said he was “extremely, extremely mad” at the prank.
Chandra also testified that he drank 12 beers in the hours before the accident, the newspaper reported. He said he didn’t plan to crash into the Prius and testified that he didn’t stop after rear-ending the sedan because he didn’t realize anyone was hurt — even though he admitted under cross-examination that he was driving 99 miles per hour (159 kph) before the collision. .
Coroner Daniel Hawkins died in the crash; Coroner Drake Ruiz; and Jacob Evescu of Riverside, according to the Riverside County Coroner’s Office.
Sergio Campasano was the 18-year-old driver of the Prius at the time. He and then 13-year-olds Joshua Hawkins and Joshua Evescu survived the crash. They testified at the trial and were in the courtroom when the verdict was read.
Chandra was already facing criminal charges for alleged domestic violence when the murders took place in 2020.
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