Anurag Chandra, 45, was declared guilty by a jury on Friday in Riverside, California of three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of second-degree murder for chasing down a car full of teenagers who had played a “ding dong ditch” prank at Chandra’s home on January 19, 2020.
The Prius, carrying at least six teenagers, was crashed into a tree after Chandra, who was driving an Infiniti, chased them at a speed of 99 mph. Jacob Ivascu, Drake Ruiz, and Daniel Hawkins, all aged 16, died in the crash, with Joshua Hawkins (13), Joshua Ivascu (14), and the driver Sergio Campusano (18) seriously injured. According to the California Highway Patrol, the teens were having a sleepover and one of them had dared their friends to pull the prank.
Chandra stated that the prank had made him “extremely, extremely mad” and also testified in court that he had consumed 12 beers in the hours before the crash.
He pleaded not guilty to all charges, but Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin commented that the murder of the young men was a “horrendous and senseless tragedy” and thanked the jury for their verdict.
Chandra’s attorney, David Wohl, argued that the media reports of it being a simple prank were misleading, as one of the teenagers had exposed himself after pounding on the door. Wohl also stated that his client was in “extreme fear” for the safety of his wife and daughters, who were inside the house at the time.
The father of Joshua and Jacob, Alex Ivascu, proclaimed that justice had been served and that the jury had looked at the facts and realized that the facts spoke louder than false words from the defendant.
Prior to this incident, Chandra had already been facing domestic violence charges. He is currently in custody and will be sentenced on July 14. In California, first-degree murder is punishable by 25 years to life in prison.