With Halloween just around the corner, we wanted to warn Orange County residents of the dangers of drinking and driving on Halloween, particularly because so many children of all ages will be trick-or-treating on Tuesday, October 31, 2017.
Historically, Halloween is one of the deadliest days of the year in regards to pedestrian injuries and fatalities involving school-age children. With that in mind, we want to tell a true story, which also serves as a cautionary tale to those who will be drinking and celebrating this Halloween, especially at costume parties.
Three Girls Killed in a Hit-and-Run on Halloween
In May of 2015, a 32-year-old man was sentenced to 15 years after being convicted of killing three girls in a hit-and-run accident in Santa Ana on the previous Halloween. J. Ramone Bell was a resident of Orange. On Oct. 31, 2014, he was speeding when he struck two twin sisters, L. Perez and L. Perez, and their friend, A. Gonzalez – all three girls were 13 years old.
The girls were trick-or-treating, and crossing the street in a crosswalk when the Honda CRV drove straight into them. The three girls were thrown over 100 feet, according to authorities. All three of the victims died at the scene of the crash. Bell did not stop to call for an ambulance, instead he fled the scene. His abandoned SUV was located later that evening about a quarter mile from the scene. The Honda’s windshield was shattered and there was major damage to the hood and the passenger side.
Bell’s Children Were in the SUV
Bell was not driving alone that night. When the accident occurred, his two sons – ages 14 and 17 were with him. Bell was arrested a few short days after the crash. According to court records just months earlier, Bell was convicted on DUI hit-and-run charges and his driver’s license was suspended.
In the first incident, Bell had minors in his vehicle at the time of that crash. In that incident, he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, hit-and-run with property damage, and child abuse and child endangerment. When Bell was re-arrested in October, he had two warrants out for his arrest in connection to a separate domestic violence case.
In California, when someone is previously convicted of DUI and they kill someone while driving under the influence, they can be charged with murder. Since Bell fled the scene on Halloween, he wasn’t taken into custody until two days after the accident; there was no way to give a breathalyzer or field sobriety tests.
Bell ultimately pleaded guilty to one felony count of hit-and-run with permanent injury or death, three felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, and one misdemeanor count of driving on a suspended license with a sentencing enhancement for fleeing the scene. While a maximum sentence of 13 years and eight months was eventually sought, Bell received a 15-year sentence.
Before you drink on Halloween, please arrange for a ride with a sober friend, or call Uber, Lyft or a cab. Have fun, drink responsibly, and most importantly, stay safe on Halloween!
Facing DUI charges in Orange County? To work with a Board-Certified DUI defense specialist, call the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. for a free case evaluation.