A California man accused of killing three teenagers after plowing his car into them after they had rang his doorbell as a prank has been convicted of murder.
Anurag Chandra, 45, was convicted of murder on Friday after an incident in 2020 when he responded to a “ding dong ditch” prank by chasing six teenagers in his vehicle and smashing into their Toyota Prius. The Prius was forced off the road, and three 16-year-old boys were killed and three others were injured when they hit a tree.
“The murder of these young men was a horrendous and senseless tragedy for our community,” Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said. “This is an important step toward justice.”
The incident happened on January 19, 2020 and occurred in Temescal Valley. Chandra said that he was “extremely, extremely mad” and that had believed that his family might be in danger after his doorbell rang and one of the teens exposed his backside.
Daniel Hawkins, Drake Ruiz, and Jacob Ivascu were all killed after Chandra struck them after driving up to 99 miles per hour, according to court testimony. According to Chandra, he did not intentionally hit the Prius but rammed into it after it had hit the brakes.
“I whipped into my window and I blacked out and then I remember I woke up on the floor,” said Sergio Campusano, who was driving the car. “I don’t remember how I got there. I was shaking.”
During the trial, Chandra said that he had drunk 12 beers over a period of 2.5 hours before the doorbell prank. After hitting the Prius, he returned home and did not check to see if the boys were alright. Police say that they found his license plate at the scene.
“We are happy to see justice was served even though in this day and age it is hard to come by,” Alex Ivascu, the father of two of the victims, told The Press-Enterprise. “But we had a reasonable jury that looked at the facts and realized that the facts speak louder than words — or lying words from the defendant.”
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“He has his right to a day in court but the constant lying was so ludicrous,” Craig Hawkins, another father of two of the victims, said. “He said such preposterous things. Here is a guy who we think murdered our sons, and he takes no ownership. No contrition. That’s so insulting.”
Chandra, who will be sentenced in July, faces life in prison without parole.