By Shawn Raymundo
A Santa Ana jury on Tuesday, Oct. 1, found 29-year-old Bani Marcela Duarte, a San Clemente resident, guilty of second-degree murder for the deaths of three Las Vegas teenagers in 2018.
According to the Orange County District Attorney’s office, Duarte, while driving under the influence on Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach, killed Brooke Hawley, 17, Dylan Mack, 18, and Albert Rossi, 17, and injured a fourth teenager in the early morning hours of March 29, 2018.
The high school students were celebrating their spring break in Orange County, the DA noted.
Duarte was convicted of three felony counts of murder and one felony count of driving under the influence of alcohol, according to the DA.
“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,” the DA’s office said in an Oct. 1 press release.
In a separate case, a San Clemente man was convicted last month in the 2016 death of 10-year-old Kendra Geddis, who was killed while sleeping in the backseat of her father’s Tesla in Seal Beach.
A jury in Santa Ana found Adam John Kanas, 39, guilty of second-degree murder and was also convicted on two counts of driving under the influence of drugs, the DA’s office announced on Sept. 23.
“Choosing to get behind the wheel after you have been drinking or using drugs is a choice that has deadly consequences,” OC District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in the Sept. 23 press release. “That decision cost a 10-year-old girl her life—and cost her family a lifetime of memories with their little girl.”
According to the DA, Kanas had been driving his 2013 Chevy Tahoe “erratically at speeds of nearly 80 mph” the day of the collision on Aug. 15, 2016. At around 9:20 that morning, Kanas, heading northbound on the I-405 Freeway, swerved across multiple lanes, including a double yellow line, to enter the carpool lane near the Seal Beach Boulevard exit.
Donald Geddis, Kendra’s father, was driving his Tesla in the carpool lane while Kendra and her 13-year-old sister, Kayla, were in the backseat sleeping. Geddis had been slowing down as he was approaching traffic, “when Kanas slammed into the rear of the Tesla at approximately 68 miles per hour,” according to the DA.
The Tesla was sent into a Honda Civic. The impact of the crash killed Kendra while seriously injuring Kayla and their father.
Kanas was previously convicted of driving under the influence and had a prior-strike conviction for first-degree burglary in Los Angeles County, the DA’s office said.
“Drugged driving is up more than 120 percent in Orange County over the last five years, and it has to stop,” Spitzer said in the release.
Duarte faces 51 years to life in a state prison. Kanas, who could face 41 years to life in state prison, is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 10, 2020.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.