Daniel Hawkins, Jacob Ivascu and Drake Ruiz, all 16, were inseparable since fifth grade

By Christine Pelisek
April 23, 2020 11:59 AM
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Courtesy Ivascu, Hawkins and Ruiz Families

Daniel Hawkins, Jacob Ivascu and Drake Ruiz were inseparable since fifth grade. The three California best friends, who attended the same church youth group, had packed a January holiday weekend with fun activities like a birthday dinner, wrestling and a plunge into a pool.

On Jan. 19, the night before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the boys, all 16, were together at a sleepover at the Hawkins’ house along with two of their younger siblings and a friend. One thing led to another and they set off for a game of Ding-Dong Ditch, the age-old game where kids ring someone’s doorbell and then run off.

The three 16-year-olds, along with Jacob’s 14-year-old brother Joshua and Daniel’s 13-year-old brother, also named Joshua, piled into a Toyota Prius driven by their good friend, Sergio Campusano. Then they pulled up to a neighbor’s house.

While the boys watched, Joshua Ivascu rang the doorbell. While he was dashing back to the Prius, he heard someone — later identified as Anurag Chandra, 42 — turn the door’s lock.

While the boy’s drove off, Chandra allegedly got into his Infiniti and chased them down, ultimately colliding with the back of the Prius, causing it to veer off the road and slam into a tree.

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The three best friends died. Joshua Ivascu, Joshua Hawkins and Sergio were all hospitalized for injuries ranging from a concussion to fractured vertebrae.

The California Highway Patrol arrested Chandra at his home. He’s charged with three counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder. He pleaded not guilty on Feb 21.

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Anurag Chandra
Riverside County Sheriff's Department/AP

Although the families seek justice, each of the mourning parents forgives the suspect.

Jacob’s mother Ramona says her son would want her to forgive him: “He would say, ‘Mom, you have to forgive him. You have to. Because unforgiveness does not bring any closure.”

Drake’s father Billy, citing his religious faith, says forgiveness is “what we believe.”

More than anything, the families want to honor their sons’ lives, and have recently launched a website called Rememberthe3.com. “I don’t want them to become a statistic — like, ‘Oh, three teenage boys killed,’” says Daniel’s father, Craig.

A GoFundMe page has also been set up to help with medical expenses.