Orange County, California (Feb. 28, 2020) — A woman who drove drunk and caused a crash that killed three Las Vegas teens in Huntington Beach last year was found guilty of second-degree murder and on Feb. 27, 2020, was sentenced to 51 years in prison.
Drunken Driver Sentenced To 51 Years To Life For Murdering Three Las Vegas Teens and Injuring Fourth After Fiery Collision in Huntington Beach
SANTA ANA, Calif. – A judge on Feb. 27, 2020, sentenced a San Clemente woman to 51 years to life in prison for murdering three Las Vegas teenagers and injuring a fourth while driving under the influence.
Bani Marcela Duarte, 29, of San Clemente, was convicted on October 1, 2019 of three felony counts of murder, one felony count of driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury, and a sentencing enhancement of great bodily injury. Duarte was driving with a blood-alcohol level of .30 at the time of the collision.
Seventeen-year-old Brooke Hawley, 18-year-old Dylan Mack, and 17-year-old Albert “A.J.” Rossi were pronounced dead at the scene. John Doe survived the collision, suffering great bodily injury including burns and a concussion. Duarte was arrested at the scene by the Huntington Beach Police Department.
During emotional victim impact statements delivered in court today, family members told the court how the loss of the three teenagers had destroyed their lives.
“The impact will not be over for me until the day I take my last breath,” said Rhonda Hawley, Brooke Hawley’s mother.
“Ms. Duarte you will be able to see your children through glass in jail,” Albert J. Rossi, father of Albert Rossi, said. “If I want to see my son I have to go to a cemetery. That’s thanks to you Ms. Duarte.
“I would give anything to hear his laugh and feel his hugs again,” said Renee Mack, the mother of Dylan Mack. “I keep waiting for him to walk through our door again – and he never will.”
In the early morning hours of March 29, 2018, Duarte was driving under the influence on Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach.
At approximately 1 a.m., four Las Vegas high school students who were celebrating their spring break in Orange County were stopped in a vehicle at a red light on Pacific Coast Highway and Magnolia.
Duarte failed to stop at the red light and rear-ended the victims’ vehicle at a high rate of speed, causing an impact that pushed the car through the intersection and forced it into a pole, where it stopped and burst into flames.
“There was no reason for these three young people to have lost their lives to a repeat drunk driver. I have prosecuted these cases myself and they are devastating to the families, the community, to the law enforcement officers who investigate these cases and to our own prosecutors who fight for justice,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “The unnecessary loss of life is why I, as a member of the State Assembly, authored the Steve Ambriz Act to require every Californian who wants a driver’s license to sign a form that states he or she has been advised that being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, impairs the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, and if they do so anyway and someone is killed, they can be charged with murder. This was not an accident. It was a choice – and it was a deadly one.”
Duarte had previously been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in 2016 and had lost her license for a year.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Daniel Feldman prosecuted the case.
“To sum this up in one line, this is a tragedy of epic proportions,” Orange County Superior Court Judge Gary Paer said. “The victims’ families are suffering. The defendant’s family is suffering. There are no words to adequately summarize this horrific event.”
DUI DRIVER REAR-ENDED CAR & BURNED THREE VICTIMS ALIVE IN CRASH
Bani Duarte charged with killing three teens in DUI crash released on bail of zero dollars
LAS VEGAS – A spring break tragedy brought together the friends and family of three teenagers killed in a car wreck.
There was a total of four Centennial High School students in the car together in Huntington Beach, California when a woman suspected of driving under the influence hit their car.
Alexis Vargas, AJ Rossi, Dylan Mack, and Brooke Hawley, were all in the car together when the crash happened.
The driver of the car that hit the teens is 27-year-old Bani Duarte.
From Huntington Beach Police Arrest Records:
BANI DUARTE H / F / 27 / SAN CLEMENTE,
2018004367, Date: 3/29/2018 Time: 0215
DUI ALCOHOL CAUSING BODILY INJURY
GROSS VEHICULAR MANSLAUGHTER WHILE INTOXICATED
Orange County Jail Records:
Inmate Name: DUARTE, BANI
Date of Birth: 06-10-1990
Race: Mexican-Latin American
Custody Status: Released
Height: 5′ 06″
Bail Amount: $0.00
Arrested on: 03-29-2018
Release Type: Bond Posted
Release Date: 04-01-2018 09:50:00
The Rossi Family is exceedingly grateful for the outpouring of support they’ve received from friends and family. Thankfully, the financial burden of funeral arrangements for AJ is something the Rossi family will not anguish over.
However, the reality is starting to set in for the Rossi Family. In order to ensure the drunk driver who killed AJ, Dylan, and Brooke is brought to justice, the Rossi Family will be making countless trips out to California for court dates, to meet with attorneys, and more. They would appreciate your support in alleviating the financial burden of these expenses.
The Rossi Family plans to use any leftover funds to cover their trips out to California to seek justice for AJ, Brooke, and Dylan.
Please continue sharing this page with your friends and family. The Rossi Family appreciates your support in helping them ensure justice is served upon this sick woman. Thank you.
Albert Rossi is a permanently disabled Veteran who was injured while serving in the Vietnam War. About ten years ago, Albert’s wife passed away. With the help of his daughter, Allie, Albert has raised three children and two grandchildren as a widower.
On the morning of March 29th, 2018, Albert’s son, AJ, was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver. AJ and his friends were enjoying their spring break at Huntington Beach.
AJ was set to graduate from Centennial High School in Las Vegas, NV, in June of this year. AJ was always the center of attention and his smile lit up every single room that he walked into. In fact, AJ just won the “Best Smile” superlative for his senior class. After high school, AJ had plans to attend college at College of Southern Nevada this fall. AJ had a whole life ahead of him that a drunk driver abruptly ended.
Albert and his family are both devastated and asking for the help of the community to cover the funeral, memorial, and other expenses.
100% of all donations will go to the family of AJ Rossi. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.
From LA Times
Authorities and family members have identified the three Las Vegas teenagers killed early Thursday when a car slammed into the back of their vehicle in Huntington Beach.
Orange County coroner‘s officials identified Brooke Hawley, 17, and Dylan Mack, 18, as two of the victims. Family members last week identified the other victim as A.J. Rossi, 17. Coroner’s officials have not publicly identified him.
They and Alexis Vargas, a fourth teenager in the car, were visiting Southern California for spring break, authorities and family members said. Vargas survived the crash and was taken to a hospital for treatment.