Several arrested in fatal Halloween hit-and-run in Santa Ana

Magaly Huerta holds photos of her nieces, twins Lexandra, left, and Lexi Perez, from their elementary school graduation.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Santa Ana police arrested several people Sunday in connection with a fatal hit-and-run car crash that claimed the lives of three teenage trick-or-treaters on Halloween night.

The arrests were made at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, but investigators declined to release any details. Police said earlier that they were looking for the driver and another person who were in the Honda CR-V that plowed into the teenagers before fleeing the scene.

“Our victims’ advocates are now talking to the families” of the victims, said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, a police spokesman. He said more details about the arrests will be released during a news conference scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at the Police Department.


Twin sisters Lexia and Lexandra Perez, 13, and their friend Andrea Gonzalez, also 13, were struck about 6:45 p.m. by a driver “going at a high rate of speed” while they were in a crosswalk in the area of Old Grand Street and Fairhaven Avenue, police said.

All three were declared dead at the scene.

The driver and a passenger of the SUV that struck the girls left the vehicle in a nearby Big Lots parking lot and fled the scene, police said. Police said the Honda bore evidence that it had been involved in the hit-and-run.

Arlette Huerta, the twins’ aunt, said the girls had just left the house to go trick-or-treating. Late Sunday afternoon she said the family had not been formally notified by police about the arrests and had been overwhelmed with more immediate responsibilities, including making funeral arrangements for the girls.

“If there have been arrests, we are happy,” Huerta said.

Andrea’s brother, Josafat Gonzalez, 21, said of the arrests, “It won’t bring my sister back, but the people who committed such a terrible crime will get their time in court and justice will be served.”

On Sunday evening, about 100 people gathered around a curbside memorial where the girls were struck as police blocked off the street. Mourners brought bouquets and lit hundreds of candles.

Among those standing with hands clasped and eyes teary was Salha Zeidan, who was Lexandra’s math teacher at Portola Middle School in Orange.

Zeidan was playing back memories of better times.

“Lexandra was very quiet, very smart and generous — she was also a very hard-working student,” Zeidan said.

Wiping away tears as she looked up at the sky, Zeidan added: “I don’t know exactly how to deal with her empty desk when class starts tomorrow at 9:05 a.m. My plan right now is to hug each student who comes through the door. No high-fives tomorrow. Hugs.”

When Maria Gonzalez, Andrea’s mother, arrived for a religious service, she was led through the crowd by a friend on each arm, one announcing, “Make way for the mother of Andrea, please.”

A path appeared through the crowd to the memorial, where Maria was handed a lighted candle. Her hands were visibly trembling.

Moments later, a church leader turned to the crowd and began a sermon in Spanish: “There are no words to describe what happened here,” he began, as volunteers moved through the crowd with small boxes wrapped in pink paper and a slot on top for donations.

The Santa Ana incident was the first of two fatal accidents involving Orange County pedestrians on Halloween. Ten miles away in Irvine, about 30 minutes after the girls were hit, a man was trick-or-treating with his 4-year-old son when they were struck by a motorist.

John Alcorn, 65, was killed and his son, who was not identified, was rushed to a trauma center, where he was in critical condition.

Times staff writer Esmeralda Bermudez contributed to this story.