The suspect in a hit-and-run crash in South Los Angeles that killed a 13-year-old boy and his baby brother has been arrested and charged with murder, police announced Thursday, capping a weeks-long investigation that spanned two states.
The crash occurred Jan. 9 after the driver of a Mercedes-Benz blew through a red light at Main Street and 111th Place in Broadway-Manchester, smashing into the car driven by Deborah Amaya, who was taking her children to their grandmother, police said. The collision resulted in the death of her two sons, Christopher Amaya-Pineda, 13, and Damian Amaya-Pineda, 18 months.
“My kids were everything,” Deborah Amaya told reporters Thursday. “There wasn’t a day I didn’t remind them they were everything to me. It’s sad how I’m never going to see them again.”
After striking Amaya’s vehicle, the driver hit two other parked cars before his vehicle burst into flames, said LAPD Det. Ryan Moreno. The driver got out and ran off.
“There were some witnesses and some good Samaritans that were there that tried to detain the suspect, but they were unsuccessful,” Moreno said.
Detectives had a “person of interest” the day of the crash, Moreno said, and evidence at the scene led police to reach out to authorities in Nevada for assistance. Investigators relied on the witnesses to recall key details that helped identify the suspect, Taylor Lee Harris, who was arrested Jan. 20.
Harris, 31, was tracked down more than 100 miles east of Los Angeles at a trailer park around Desert Hot Springs, where LAPD detectives took him into custody.
Harris was charged with two counts of murder before his arrest. He was booked in L.A. County jail last week and was being held in lieu of $4-million bond.
Appearing Monday in a Compton courtroom, Harris pleaded not guilty to the charges. His defense attorney could not be reached for comment.
“I’m happy that the guy is caught,’’ Amaya said Thursday at the news conference where police announced the arrest.
“Is he ever going to bring my children back? No. But it makes me happy knowing that he’s not going to be able to do this no more to the next family or drive reckless,” she said as tears welled in her eyes. “And our goal is for him to serve life in prison, because he didn’t just take away our children for 25, 30 years. He took my kids for life.”