2 boys killed in their front yard playing with kittens

On Friday, prosecutors in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, declared that they would pursue the death penalty against 22-year-old Alex Torres Santos, who was previously under house arrest and wearing an ankle monitor for a prior shooting. This was in connection with the senseless act of violence that resulted in the deaths of two young brothers who were innocently playing with kittens in their yard and another young man, as well as a neighbor being severely injured by a stray bullet.

Santos and 16-year-old James Fernandez-Reyes are both charged with three counts of criminal homicide, aggravated assault, conspiracy, and weapon offenses. A third suspect is still being sought.

The district attorney’s office filed a notice of aggravating circumstances against Santos. It cited five factors, including multiple homicides, two victims under the age of 12, and the heightened risk to others due to the defendant’s actions in a heavily populated area.
This is the first time that a death penalty notice has been filed in the 14 years that District Attorney Pier Hess Graf has been a prosecutor in Lebanon County, and she noted that the decision was made with great care.

“There are some crimes that require us to charge accordingly,” Graf said, “such as the murder of these two young children who were innocently playing with their kittens.”

The boys’ uncle, Felix Muniz Torres, said that their mother had been working in a store nearby when the gunshots rang out and that she was still in shock and unable to speak coherently. He described his nephews as “very innocent and polite” and said they were always together, mostly playing with their superhero figures.

Police found that at least 27 shots were fired from two guns. Jesus Perez-Salome was discovered dead on his back porch, and Sebastian Perez-Salome and Joshua Lugo-Perez both died in nearby hospitals. It appears that Lugo-Perez had attempted to take shelter in the home during the shooting, and it is believed that he was targeted due to a previous argument.

After the shooting, Santos and Fernandez-Reyes allegedly fled and hid in a nearby house. Police later found multiple firearms, including an AR-15, and said that the ammunition found in the firearm was consistent with what was used during the killings. They also said that Santos had provided both firearms and that both suspects had fired rounds before running off with the murder weapons.

At the time of the shootings, Santos was out on bail for two cases of weapon-related reckless behavior, one of which included him brandishing multiple handguns, shooting, and striking a man several times.

Police reported that within a two-week period, Santos was accused of illegally possessing a handgun without a license, having crack cocaine with the intent to deliver, and tampering with a handgun’s serial number.

Bail was initially set at $100,000, but due to the prosecution’s objection a judge lowered it to $50,000; a condition of this was that Santos had to wear a monitoring bracelet and remain under house arrest until his trial.

Despite this, the suspect still committed a deadly shooting, which according to Superintendent Graf, demonstrates that the criminal justice system is not enough of a deterrent for those willing to take a life.

The superintendent of the Lebanon School District, where the boys went, sent out a letter to families stating that the loss of a young life can have a profound effect on friends and classmates and urged families to be supportive and understanding during this difficult time.