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A Child at Play Dies Violently and His Family Agonizes

Times Staff Writer

In a run-down block of apartments almost under the shadow of Disneyland’s Matterhorn mountain, 7-year-old Victor Magana played in the warren of alleyways. Men drinking warm beers leaned back on chairs in the shade of open garages.

The yells of children and gunning motors--mostly engines being repaired--pierced the air around the apartments on South Jeffrey Drive. But Saturday evening, one gunning engine didn’t stop. Onlookers said Monday that a man who appeared drunk and had just been fighting raced his Chevrolet Nova from the scene of a brawl, barely missing a garbage dumpster as he swerved.

Victor Magana froze. He tried too late to jump out of the way. The car struck two metal posts and a garage door before hitting Victor Magana. Without looking back, the driver raced away. Victor died an hour later at a nearby hospital.

Anaheim police said Monday that they had no suspect in the hit-and-run slaying. A 1970 Chevrolet Nova with the license plate 322 ADX is all they have to go on. But the registered owner said he had recently sold the car to someone he didn’t know, police said.

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Four police officers walked the neighborhood Sunday for 6 hours, knocking on doors, seeking leads. People said they could not identify the driver.

"(It’s) like he appeared from out of nowhere,” said Greg Mattis, a frustrated Anaheim police officer. “Right now, we’re at a dead end.”

Victor’s mother huddled on a drab sofa in the family’s one-bedroom apartment Monday afternoon, her eyes red. Celia Magana’s husband, Guadalupe, and their four other children were either at work or in school.

Friends consoled her as a Mexican television program blared into the dark living room. “I feel OK but not that well,” she said softly in Spanish. “My husband is very bad, worse than me. My husband

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misses him very much.”

Guadalupe Magana’s little boy used to greet him in English every day after he returned from work at a self-service laundry, the boy’s 35-year-old mother said. Victor wanted badly to learn the language.

Victor would say, “May I have a quarter, please,” she recalled. “My husband would smile and give him the money.”

Celia and Guadalupe Magana came to the United States in 1979 from their native state in Michoacan, Mexico, she said. Victor, their middle child, was “a happy boy who liked to sing,” she said.

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His other love was drawing, she said, pointing across the room to a sketch taped to the wall. It was a pencil drawing of an Indian chief in full headdress, with a totem pole to the side.

“The Indian chief is the strongest Indian in the Village,” Victor had scrawled in his first-grader’s handwriting.

Victor’s dream was to work at a McDonald’s restaurant, his mother said, smiling for a brief moment. “A lot of people here work at McDonald’s,” a neighbor explained.

“One time he got sick and wanted French fries from McDonald’s,” Celia Magana said, drawing her brown sweater close as she sobbed.

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For the past 3 years, the family had lived in the apartment on South Jeffrey Drive, just a block west of the Disneyland Hotel but worlds away. Magana walks to her work as a maid at the Sheraton-Anaheim Hotel.

Saturday evening, Celia Magana was at work when a friend called to tell her that Victor had been hit by a car, she said Monday. She ran home but by the time she arrived 20 minutes later, the ambulance had driven Victor to the hospital. “People told me not to be scared, because he was only very sick,” she said.

Her oldest son, Martin, 11, witnessed the accident, Celia Magana said. But he was taken away by police for questioning before she arrived home. Hours later, at Western Medical Center in Anaheim, she learned her son was dead.

Sotero Miranda, 39, said Monday that he was working on a carburetor with friends in an open garage and saw two men fighting shortly before 4 p.m. Saturday in the narrow alleyway behind Jeffrey Drive.

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"(They were) two guys just drunk,” Miranda said.

Then the two men broke apart, bloodied, and one tumbled into the Chevrolet Nova, Miranda said. The other man ran into the apartment complex.

Miranda said that Victor Magana was standing with a friend just 50 feet away, watching the scene, while scores of other people milled around nearby.

As the Nova driver gunned his engine, Miranda said, he yelled out to the man he had been fighting with. Then the car sped into Victor Magana.

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