Anurag Chandra gets life sentence for crash that killed 3 teens after doorbell prank

October 29, 2020

Unaware of what he was about to set in motion, 14-year-old Joshua Ivascu pressed a stranger’s doorbell on the night of Jan. 19, 2020, completing the “ding-dong ditch” prank that his sleepover mates had put him up to.

Anurag Chandra, the man who lived inside the Corona, Calif., home, was enraged, the Riverside County district attorney’s office wrote in a news release. As Joshua and five other teenage boys piled into their 2002 Toyota Prius and fled, Chandra gave chase in his 2019 Infiniti Q50. Minutes later, Chandra slammed into the Prius, forcing it off the road and into a tree.

Three of the boys died.

On Friday, Chandra – who in April was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder – was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the Riverside County district attorney’s office wrote in a news release. District Attorney Mike Hestrin praised Riverside County Superior Court Judge Valerie Navarro for giving Chandra the harshest sentence possible, saying that Chandra’s “anger, callousness and outrageous conduct” caused immeasurable grief.

“The lives of countless families will never be the same,” Hestrin wrote in the release.

Defense attorney David Wohl wrote in a statement to The Washington Post that he and Chandra are “disappointed” in the conviction and the sentence and that he plans to appeal the verdict.

“Manslaughter would have been appropriate, murder certainly is not under all the circumstances of this case,” Wohl wrote.

On Jan. 19, 2020, the six boys were having a sleepover to celebrate the 16th birthday of Joshua’s brother, Jacob. They had spent the afternoon tossing around a football and scarfing down junk food, the Press-Enterprise reported. After that, they decided to play a sleepover classic: truth or dare. Their dares started out innocently enough: downing a tablespoon of Tabasco sauce or chugging a Frankenstein concoction of whatever ingredients they found in the fridge.

Then, the stakes got a bit steeper. The boys dared Joshua to “ding-dong ditch” someone in the neighborhood. He and the other boys chose a nearby house, thinking that its purple lights signaled that someone cool lived there, the paper reported. About 10:15 p.m., Joshua knocked on the door. Unsure if anyone inside heard the knock, the boys goaded Joshua into ringing the doorbell.

He did and then pulled down his pants enough to “moon” Chandra, then 42, who was watching through the blinds, according to the Press-Enterprise. Chandra was allegedly enraged, and as he stormed out the front door, the boys fled to the Prius.

At trial, Chandra testified that he thought the person at his front door was a sex offender intent on attacking him, his wife and 16-year-old twin daughters. He told jurors that he decided to chase the boys to “express my anger.”

Hopping into his Infiniti, Chandra pursued the boys, rear-ending and sideswiping the Prius until they were forced to stop, according to the district attorney’s office. After the 18-year-old driver made a U-turn, Chandra stayed with them. As both cars approached Squaw Mountain Road, Chandra sped up to 99 mph and then rammed into the back of the Prius, causing it to veer off the road and slam into a tree, prosecutors said.

Jacob Ivascu – Joshua’s brother, whose birthday the teens were celebrating – died at the scene. Friends Daniel Hawkins and Drake Ruiz died soon after at a hospital. All three were 16.

Having left his cellphone at home, Chandra drove his damaged car back to his house, the Press-Enterprise reported. After officers found his front license plate at the scene, they showed up at his doorstep later that night. Chandra, who had not called 911, told jurors at trial that he had planned to after getting home but passed out from a night of heavy drinking and the “overwhelming stress” before doing so, according to the paper.

At Friday’s sentencing hearing, the victims’ families read statements about the intense grief that still racks them 31/2 years after the boys died, according to the news release from the district attorney’s office.

“Every day we sense the absence of this young man,” Craig Hawkins, Daniel’s father, said at the hearing. “The hole in our hearts and lives from the taking of our son’s life is staggering.”



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