Update 8:06 p.m.: Santa Ana police issued a press release Sunday announcing they'd made "multiple" arrests in the hit-and-run crash that left three 13-year-old girls dead Friday.
Police said the arrests were made by 11:30 a.m. Sunday. Santa Ana police spokesman Cpl. Anthony Bertagna told KPCC the department is holding off from releasing more information Sunday out of respect for the families, who were spending the evening in a prayer vigil for the girls.
Bertagna added that “there is still work to be done” with the investigation. The police chief will hold a press conference at 11:00 a.m. Monday.
Josafat Gonzalez, brother of one of the girls killed, Andrea Gonzalez, said his family was relieved that police had suspects in custody. He said it wasn’t important to know their names.
“It’s just comfort knowing the people who did this, they’re going to have to answer for what they did,” Gonzalez said.
More than 100 people prayed with the girls’ families during the vigil at the roadside memorial set up at the crash site, opposite Fairhaven Elementary School, which all three girls had attended.
Among them was 12-year-old Cynthia Villalobos who attended Portola Middle school with the twins.
“I want to wake up from this nightmare,” Villalobos said. “Because it doesn’t feel real. I still feel like they’re alive.”
Caption: Andres and Maria Gonzalez attend a Sunday night prayer vigil for their daughter Andrea, and her friends, Lexi and Lexandra Perez.
Donations, memorial for twin girls, friend struck and killed on Halloween
The family of 13-year-old twin girls who were struck by an SUV as they went trick-or-treating on Halloween have created a fund to help cover the costs of their memorial, as police continue to search for the driver and passenger who fled the scene.
A statement posted to a Facebook page and crowdfunding site set up for the girls calls for donations to help defray the cost of their burial. "We ask for your support to help raise money and awareness to give them the most respectful memorial that both they and their family deserve in this tragic time for them," it reads. By Sunday afternoon, the site had raised $4,500 more than its $10,000 goal.
Lexi and Lexandra Perez were crossing Fairhaven and Grand Avenue Friday night with their 13-year-old friend Andrea Gonzalez at 6:43 p.m. when they were struck and killed by a vehicle that sped off after the crash, coroner's officials and police said.
Witnesses told the L.A. Times the three girls were hit by an SUV and thrown in the air in a horrific scene that several at first thought was staged.
The Times reports:
Alex Cervantes, a neighbor, said he was at home when he heard a crashing sound. His 17-year-old daughter saw what she thought were three dolls thrown out of a vehicle, flying at least 100 feet. "We didn't think it was real," Cervantes said.
Police later found a black Honda CR-V matching the description of the car parked in a nearby mall, with severe damage to the front of the vehicle, CBS Los Angeles reported. The vehicle's registration was out-of-date, and police are still looking for information on possible suspects, the station said.
Dozens gather at Santa Ana memorial
Caption: Family and friends gather at a memorial for Lexi and Lexandra Perez and Andrea Gonzalez in Santa Ana on Sunday, November 2, 2014.
A crowd began to collect around a memorial to the three girls in the morning and swelled to more than 60 people by mid-afternoon.
Juan Pablo Ramirez, the stepfather of the twin girls, briefly came by the site in the morning, with a pink donation box and two framed graduation photos of the sisters in caps and gowns. He set the items amid dozens of lit scented candles, stuffed animals, balloons and handmade art.
Ramirez said he couldn’t stay too long because he needed to tend to his wife, who was devastated by the loss of the twins. The couple have three surviving children: a 15-year-old boy, and two daughters, ages 3 and 5.
In the 20 minutes or so he was the memorial, he was hugged and approached by visitors, including Michelle O’Donoghue of North Tustin who wrote him a check to help defray funeral expenses. Ramirez, who speaks little English, looked at her and quietly said, “Thank you.”
“It’s just three kids in one little neighborhood,” said O’Donoghue who came by the memorial after attending church. “That’s a huge loss. No one should bury their children ever.”
Brother calls for suspects to turn themselves in
Caption: Josafat Gonzalez, brother of 13-year-old Andrea Gonzalez, at a memorial set up in her honor on Sunday, November 2, 2014.
Josafat Gonzalez watched as dozens of visitors laid balloons and bouquets at the memorial to his sister, Andrea and her two friends. He said he recognized some of the well-wishers; others were complete strangers. The whole community is “distraught” over the hit-and-run, he said.
“These people did it in such a vicious way and never bothered to stop and help,” said Gonzalez,21. “They just left (the girls) there as some kind of rag.”
He added he wished the driver and the passenger would have the “courage to turn themselves in.”
“The biggest question running through my mind was where they were trying to get to? Was it as important as the lives of three little girls?” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said his sister and the twins grew up together in the Fairhaven Apartment complex and were such close friends that “a lot of people said that all three of them looked like sisters.”
They managed to be constant companions after the school days and on the weekends. Although they had all attended Fairhaven Elementary School, they branched off to different middle schools: Andrea Gonzalez went to Santiago Charter School, her brother said, while the twins were at Portola Middle School.
Gonzalez said his little sister was exceedingly shy around strangers but exuberant around people she knew well. She spent the week researching what she wanted to bake on Friday for her family — usually cupcakes or pie — and emulated his taste for punk and alternative music like the Black Veil Brides.
Gonzalez, who identified his sister’s body at the coroner’s office Saturday afternoon, said no funeral date has been set yet. The family is awaiting the release of Andrea Gonzalez’ body, and have been forewarned that may not happen until the end of the week.
Gonzalez said his mother is especially traumatized by the lost of her daughter, the youngest of four children. Maria Gonzalez, an assembly line worker for a technology company, spent most of her free time with her daughter, while her husband worked at night at an industrial printing company.
“My mom considered Andrea her partner,” Gonzalez said. “She was the person she did everything with. She has this empty hole now.”
Gonzalez and his siblings, a 16-year-old brother and 24-year-old sister, took turns visiting the memorial and thanking visitors.
“Me and my brother and sister are sucking it up a little bit and being the stronger ones,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a lot harder for (our parents ) to see their younger child be ripped from their arms, as opposed to us."
Anyone with information is asked to call the Orange County police at 714-245-8665 or OC Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS.
This story has been updated